Friday, 20 April 2012

Hey, Hey JFK

It was off to the other end of Boston this morning - a walk, two trains and a bus later I was rocking up to the JFK Presidential Library - my first visit to the institution I thought would be at the heart of my thesis - but has, in fact, turned out to be rather peripheral.

Despite the picture, it was actually really busy in the Research Room - I'm used to the silence of me and a bunch of files with perhaps one other researcher wading through historical records. But today there were seven others in the room for most of the morning with a couple more arriving near lunchtime.

Given that my research has now narrowed very much into Eisenhower territory, there was only so much value I could get out of today's visit. I had expected to be at MIT for a second day - but weirdly, they don't open on a Friday. Still, it was good to work through the 1960 campaign files and build up a picture of JFK's criticisms of the Eisenhower administration - especially from 1958 when it was very clear that Kennedy intended to run for President. One of the most interesting documents was the rebuttals to the issues about Kennedy - from his health, to being soft on communism - that the Kennedy camp either saw or assumed they'd see from the Nixon side. As far as I could tell, much of the Kennedy counter-argument was closer to fantasy than fact. Ah, well......politics!

One good thing about having a researcher pass for the presidential libraries is the opportunity to look round the museum for free. The JFK museum has had a refurb recently for the Kennedy 50th anniversary of his election win. Given my interests, I got a buzz out of the Mercury space suit and the exchange of memos between JFK and LBJ that feature so strongly in the popular narrative of the US manned journey to the moon.

There are a couple of odd aspects to the museum - the film marking the Cuban Missile Crisis is somewhat skewed - and doesn't even particularly clarify Kennedy's contribution, while the Dallas assassination is just a TV loop  in a corridor. Still, it was a good day - and I'm glad I finally made it to Columbia Point. It's a pretty amazing place to build a museum.

I'm back in the South End again this evening - but the view from my bedroom window's not bad.

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