Things to Do in Dallas When You're Bailing Your Brother Out of Jail, Part III
Pick up some souvenirs commemorating JFK's assassination
This has been in my drafts for almost a year, so I’m just sending it out!
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"All museums have gift shops," Mrs. Sissom told a reporter in 1972. "Don't be unfair."
You know what, Mrs. Sissom? You’re right. All museums have gift shops. Museum gift shops are a big revenue source, and in this economy I am definitely not suggesting they shouldn’t have one. And like, TBH, the gift shop was the whole reason I wanted to go to the Sixth Floor Museum in the first place. I actually thought about just going to the gift shop and leaving.
The souvenirs, though, I have to say: kinda fucked up! I’m thinking specifically of the items that use one particular graphic: what an architectural draftsperson would call a “front elevation” image of the building, usually rendered in orange and navy. (I have been unable to find out anything about who designed the graphic and when the museum started using it.) The effect is very modern, very design-y. It looks like this:
The image appears on t-shirts, magnets, postcards, keychains, a notepad.1 (It’s not a logo—the logo is this:)
Anyway, the front elevation image seemed sort of benign to me until I noticed this:
That’s right, the window Oswald shot from is ... open! All the time! Forever! I think that’s weird! I think that’s weird printed on a t-shirt. I think it’s weird printed on a coaster. I think it is especially weird on a REUSABLE TOTE BAG.2
To be fair, I also discovered a lot of cool and appropriate things in the shop. Most use images from other parts of Kennedy’s life and his presidency, like a ceramic reproduction of the paper Coffee With Kennedy cup produced to promote the DNC’s television show Coffee with Senator and Mrs. Kennedy.3 (Big “Zoom graduation participation kit” vibes, right??) Campaign posters, NASA merch, reproduction badges from the March on Washington, photos of Jack and Jackie from literally any other day of their lives together. If you have to have a souvenir, those all seem ok!
A few things are weird to me—things I wouldn’t care to get or give—but I also think they’re fairly benign: reproduction newspapers, photos of the building. Still others, like this Dealey Plaza Historic Site logo, have one vibe when they’re printed on stickers and another when they’re printed on t-shirts, at least I think so. The t-shirt leans inappropriate.4 (On the other hand, what do I know, I’m not the audience for those ALCATRAZ MENTAL WARD t-shirts that visitors to San Francisco seem to enjoy.)
Anyway, the front elevation: kind of uncomfortable! That dumb open window makes the place a memorial to Oswald, or to Oswald’s act, and makes the window a very peculiar site of veneration, and that seems ... bad?
Speaking of venerating violence, for fans of The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Kennedy (Jack Ruby), there’s this button that reproduces a matchbook cover from the Carousel Club.5
This lenticular postcard also troubled me. Yes, that’s right—it overlays a photo of the building with a photo taken earlier that day, hours before the president was shot and killed from one of the windows of that building! That is gauche, don’t @ me.
Also bad (though produced by an outside company): novelties that refer to “The Lincoln/Kennedy Conspiracy…..”6
I don’t have an ending to this, which is why I sat on it so long, so I shan’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good any longer. Happy shopping!
I bought a notepad, obviously.
I bought the tote bag, obviously. I also bought one for my girlfriend.
I bought this cup, obviously.
I bought the shirt, obviously.
I bought this pin, obviously.
ABSOLUTELY did NOT buy this, what kind of sick freak do you take me for??