Museum visitors start with an introductory 18 minute film of Kennedy's life up to the 1960 presidential campaign. Hey, wait a minute... how long was the famous gap in Nixon's Watergate tapes? Coincidence or subtle political commentary? Hmmm....
Sorry. Been watching too much X-Files.
After the film, visitors pass through exhibits covering the campaign and the President's 1000 days in office. There's a lot of video, but the best is from the Kennedy-Nixon debates. While Kennedy comes across as a dynamic presence, notice how Nixon comes across as suspect, particularly in reaction shots as Kennedy is speaking. Nixon faces forward while his eyes slide over to steal sidelong glances of his competitor.
The world was a dangerous place in 1960. Laos, Viet Nam and Berlin were all hot spots, but the Soviet effort to place missiles in Cuba brought the superpowers to the brink of war in October 1962. At home, Kennedy mobilized federal resources to insure civil rights we take for granted today were available to all. Exhibits on the Peace Corps and the space program are included.
There's little on the former First Lady. One disappointed visitor was overhead to say ?They only have TWO of Jackie's dresses? and they're BOTH BEIGE!?
The museum comes across as Smithsonian-like, a sanitized view of Kennedy and his presidency. It studiously avoids any controversy that might reflect poorly on the family. The Kennedy assassination is addressed obliquely by a darkened corridor with television monitors playing scenes from news broadcasts and the funeral.
There's an odd feeling when you stroll through a museum and stop to look at a preserved Time magazine protected under glass... and realize you read it when it first came out. And that's my problem with the Kennedy Library and Museum. People of a certain age will walk through the exhibits, nodding sagely, thinking "Cuba, yep... Peace Corps, yep... Attorney General Bobby, yep...." Locals, who've been inundated with Kennedy political campaigns have their own checklist, "Aunt Gladys had one of those 'Kennedy for Senate' signs on her lawn...." Younger people, say those under 45, can get some insight into a truly turbulent time in American history.