Housed in a striking building designed by I.M. Pei, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum sits on a 10-acre waterfront site on Columbia Point offering panoramic views of Boston’s skyline and Harbor Islands. This national memorial to President John F. Kennedy is dedicated to the memory of our nation's thirty-fifth president and to all those who through the art of politics seek a new and better world.
The museum has 22 permanent exhibits that cover President Kennedy’s life and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the times of one of the most compelling figures of the twentieth century. After an introduction to John F. Kennedy and his early life in the Young Jack exhibit, you’ll be taken on an adventure through the past starting in 1960.
Welcome to the 60’s!
As you take your first steps “on the edge of a New Frontier, the Frontier of the 1960's”, as JFK himself described it in his Nomination Acceptance Speech, you’ll find yourself travelling along the campaign trail in the race for the presidency in the 1960 Presidential Election Exhibit.
From the Museum:
“The Museum recreates the sights and sounds of the 1960 Democratic National Convention and the main streets of America traveled by candidates Kennedy and Nixon. Listen as Senator John F. Kennedy accepts his party’s nomination at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Walk down Main Street USA and feel the energy of the Kennedy campaign as Frank Sinatra sings campaign songs "High Hopes" and "All the Way!" Step back into a reproduction of a Chicago television studio and see the television coverage of the first debate between JFK and Nixon. Stay up late with Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, and Chet Huntley as they report election-night returns and reveal how close a race it really was.”
You’ll also be treated to the view of a Kennedy Campaign office and the materials that were key parts of the campaign. In addition to this unique ephemera, you can see the TelePrompter text used by Senator John F. Kennedy while delivering his acceptance speech at the DNC, the actual audio control and television camera used for the first televised Presidential debate, and a map of the election return results.
The Presidential Path
Once you’ve followed along the road to the White House, you’ll learn about JFK’s presidency and the highlights of his time in office. You’ll enjoy exhibits about the Inauguration and President Kennedy’s truly iconic inaugural address, the president’s relationship with the press and the monumental leaps he made in communication as the first president to conduct live televised press conferences, and his key initiatives from the Peace Corps to the Space Program.
Visit the Kennedy Era White House
During his tenure in office, President Kennedy and his administration addressed one of the key domestic issues of the time: the fight for civil rights. You’ll experience Kennedy’s response to the civil rights movement and see how he committed the full powers of his office to the cause of equal rights in The Oval Office exhibit.
From the museum:
“This exhibit contains film footage from 1963 related to the civil rights movement. The events portrayed include the April civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama; the June 10th integration of the University of Alabama; President Kennedy’s June 11, 1963 televised address to the nation on civil rights; and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s August 28th speech, “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. On display is a selection of personal items which President Kennedy displayed in the White House Oval Office as well as a replica of President Kennedy's desk, the HMS Resolute desk.”
Beyond the oval office you’ll explore the importance of gift-giving between international leaders and impact on foreign affairs and relationships. A selection of these gifts are displayed in an exhibit that recreates the White House corridor. Continuing on the theme of international relationships, you’ll also pay a visit to the Ceremonial Room where you’ll discover and experience key elements of the 1962 Ivory Coast State Dinner.
From the museum:
“The items in the exhibit reveal all the pomp and ceremony of a state event, the glitter of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's dress, the sparkle of the crystal, the music by Aaron Copland, the entertainment all carefully chosen, all these things speak to the beauty and formality of these age-old traditions. This event was notable as it demonstrated how President Kennedy was reaching out to the leader of a newly independent African nation.”
Get to Know the First Lady
In exploring the life and time of any of our American presidents, we would be missing an integral piece of the puzzle if we were not to learn about their first ladies. At age thirty-one, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy had become the third youngest First Lady in our history. With her gracious personal style and her passion for history and the arts she worked hard to be worthy of her new role.
From the museum:
“This exhibit highlights Jacqueline Kennedy’s early life, as well as her substantive achievements as First Lady. Her contributions to the field of historic preservation, her advocacy for the arts, and her role as an effective cultural ambassador are illustrated in this exhibit, which includes an interactive screen focusing on Jacqueline Kennedy's work as First Lady, highlighting other items from the collection not currently on display.
Particular attention is given to her work in restoring the White House and in developing its collection of art and historical furnishings. The display includes photographs, video footage of her televised tour of the White House and international travels, her artwork and clothing.”
Hands on History
Thanks to these and other exhibits, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum as here you’re offered a unique chance to experience history hands on. While you can take the journey back through time on your own the museum also offers Family-friendly docent-led Highlights Tours of the Museum's exhibits as well as hands-on cart programs; Stranded at Sea: The PT-109 Story and The Race for Space. With so many different ways to explore, this memorial to President John F. Kennedy is sure to give you the experience of a lifetime.