One of my earliest memories was of the activities surrounding the JFK assassination. I remember my Mom watching TV and then getting very excited saying something like “Oh my God they shot him.” I believe the memory is of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, she was watching the news after the JFK assassination and saw that live. My Mom was very pregnant and I had always remembered it as being the same day as my sister was born, but she wasn’t born until 4 days later, so my memory is a little off, of course I was only 3 years old. From that point growing up for many years JFK was a part of our national consciousness and through TV, our lives. I’m sure I don’t have many memories of him actually in office, but visions of those days are easily recalled because they were replayed so often in my childhood. That has changed over time. Much of the shine has come off the legacy of Camelot. Stories of JFK are rarely if ever seen on TV. Of course we have passed the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of his presidency and are approaching the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Our social memory is fading, just as it did for December 7th, and as it eventually will for September 11th.
The JFK Library is working to make much of their written, photographic, and movie archives available in digital form as part of an effort titled: Access to a Legacy = JFK. This process was begun in 2006, and has a goal of preserving the archives and giving greater access to them.
The films particularly show that this was a different time, both in their production, the dress of the people, and their behavior. In many ways it shows that the luster has not only come off the JFK legacy, but off the office of the President. I don’t believe that that is lost forever, it can be restored as I believe it has been in the past. It is interesting to watch these films to get a feel for how things were different at that time. Many of the films are silent, but an award ceremony for astronaut Major Gordon Cooper is a good example with sound. It is also interesting to see many of the politicians of that day, who were in the spot light for much of my youth in these films.
I started this post as a draft months ago, but the recent release of the audio interviews Jacqueline Kennedy did a few months after her husbands assassination brought my attention back to this post. Although there is a long article with some snippets from the transcripts on their webpage, it would be nice for the entire transcripts to be available digitally. Maybe some day, for now they will be released as part of a series of books. Jacqueline Kennedy had a unique perspective on her husband, and on his presidency, so I’m sure the interviews will be fascinating.