JFK Presidential Library preserves legacy

The American flag hangs from the rafters in the JFK Library. The museum highlights Kennedy’s personal life and presidency. NATALIE JEW / SAGAMORE STAFF

The American flag hangs from the rafters in the JFK Library. The museum highlights Kennedy’s personal life and presidency. NATALIE JEW / SAGAMORE STAFF

People from all around the world come to Dorchester, Massachusetts to walk through the life of the 35th president in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The library showcases a chronological history of Kennedy to honor his legacy and store his works.

After years of giving tours at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, volunteer docent James E. Adams said the library brings out the memory of the former president.

“It is a living record of the life of President Kennedy,” Adams said. “It’s an edifice and the architecture conveys a sense of hope; it enshrines knowledge in all the archives. This is where a scholar comes to be enlightened.”

When visitors first walk into the museum, they are entering the 1960s when Kennedy was in the race for the presidency against Richard Nixon. A photograph of women in red, white and blue dresses with “Kennedy” written on the waistband stand at his rally. According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum brochure, they are at the Democratic Convention where Kennedy became the party’s choice for president.

This scene, according to Curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Stacey Bredhoff, illustrates the feeling the American people had for the future president.

“There was great excitement and enthusiasm when JFK was selected to be the Democratic nominee for President in 1960,” Bredhoff said. “The dress and photo of young women supporters conveys that excitement.”

Visitors can walk down a replica of Main Street, which shows spectators what Boston looked like in the 1960s. The New York Times and Boston Globe stands hold newspapers with headlines from the 1960 campaign and lead toward a room showing the first televised presidential debate.

“The newspaper stands come at the beginning of the museum,” Bredhoff said. “The intent there is to introduce people to the notion that they are stepping back in time to the moment when JFK was a candidate for President and then to his time in the White House.”

The Jan. 20, 1961 inauguration video footage is played for library visitors to watch. A photo of his crowd is displayed with the Fitzgerald family Bible, and a film of Kennedy’s speech is broadcasted to imitate the environment of his inauguration.

According to the library archives, the night of the race, Kennedy went to bed without knowing the election results and in the morning he was woken up by his daughter, who said, “Good morning, Mr. President.”

According to Adams, the Research Room of the library brings Kennedy’s love of knowledge to life. The Research Room is available to the general public and has a collection of information related to Kennedy.

“He was a student of geopolitics, history and life. He was a scholar in the very best sense,” Adams said. “If anybody wants to know anything about Mr. Kennedy they all come here.” The Pavilion has a view of the Boston Harbor and Kennedy’s sailboat can be seen in the spring and summer. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is on the coast of Massachusetts and according to Bredhoff this is to show his love of sailing.

The JFK Library is located in Dorchester next to the University of Massachusetts Boston campus. It was dedicated in October 1979. NATALIE JEW / SAGAMORE STAFF

“The building sits on the edge of Dorchester Bay, which is important since JFK loved the sea and it played a big role in his life,” Bredhoff said. “One of the ideas behind the museum’s design is to immerse people in the world of 1960 and in President Kennedy’s White House.”

Small screens in a dark hallway and film footage show Kennedy’s death. Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library and ‘94 alumnus of the high school and The Sagamore Steven Rothstein said the television screens follow the time of Kennedy’s death to his funeral.

“It’s really a place to be reflective; it has a very somber, black background and is really meant to be thoughtful and reflective about the awful news that the country and his family was facing,” Rothstein said.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum will have a year-long celebration for Kennedy’s centennial birthday by hosting events with the goal of bring his story to a new generation.

“People and nations can change history and when the power of people is brought to bear we owe it to ourselves and our nation to have the same optimistic outlook that President Kennedy had,” Adams said. “If you see some of the decisions he made, you realize he was learning as he went along, and there’s a really good chance he would’ve gone on to become the very best president we’ve ever had.”