tv American Artifacts CSPAN December 24, 2014 6:39pm-7:12pm EST
holiday festivities start at 10:00 a.m. with the lighting of the national christmas tree followed by the white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. just after 12:30 p.m., celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, samuel alito and jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span2 venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker and at 12:30 see the feminist side of a superhero as jill lepore searches the secret history of wonder woman. pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. and on american history tv on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole with speeches from presidents john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon fashion experts on first ladies fashion choices and how they represented the styles of
the times in which they lived and then at 10:00, former nbc tv news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's christmas day. for a complete schedule go to c-span.org. each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums, archives and historic places. next, we visit the national archives in college park, maryland, to learn about the kennedy assassination records collection. the warren report was released to the public 50 years ago on september 27, 1964. we'll see video recorded by the national archives of many of the well known artifact of the investigation including lee harvey oswald's rifle, the so-called magic bullet and the camera original zapruder film. our guide is martha wagner murphy. >> president john f. kennedy
assassination records collection was created because of the john f. kennedy assassination records collection act of 1992. a short history. since the time of the assassination there's been numerous official investigations starting with the warren commission and then some congressional investigations, church committee looked into it, pike committee and house select committee on assassinations. in the early '90s a movie came out by oliver stone. at the end of the movie he made a point by saying not all the records had been opened and available. >> mr. chairman, members of the subcommittee, my name is oliver stone, and i assure you it is with some pleasure and some pride i appear before this subcommittee today to urge the passage of house joint resolution of 454, quote, to provide for the expeditious scloesh yur of records relating to the assassination of president john f. kennedy.
>> the purpose of the act was to make sure all the records were collected, sent to archives. there was an independent aek created that was temporary whose job was to make sure that the agencies were complying with this and to make sure that the records were opened to the greatest extent possible. so in response to that act we created the collection and it's been here at the national archives ever since. we estimate there's about 5 million text tual pages, so pieces of paper. we also have photographs and some films, audio recordings and the like. >> if the public or researchers want access to these items, how does that work? >> so for most of the textual records, all they'd need to do is come here and ask to have access. there are various finding aids available on www.archives.gov. the national archives has created a database of the items
released after '92 in response to the act, which actually the database entries were created by the agencies that were still holding the records. the national archives created the database itself, then all that data was transferred here and we made that available to the public and so you can search on an item level the records that were in the collection and if you see something that you'd like to see, you can come here, ask to see it on our business hours when we're available. the box will be pulled from our hold area and made available in our research room here at the national archives in college park. so here we have three items, which you requested. unlike the physical artifacts, we were able to accommodate you and make these available to you because these are basically textual documents, they're not physical artifacts of the collection. so first item that you requested was commission exhibit 381-a,
which is this item right here. this is a bus transfer which was found in the pocket of lee harvey oswald after he was arrested. and was obtained by the dallas police, eventually given to the fbi and became a commission exhibit of the warren commission. the second item that you requested is lee harvey oswald's address book. so this is a custom made container made by our conservation staff. and again, this is acid free, this is mylar, and they've got in handy little lift so that you can get it out of its well without having to pull on it. you can see there's a commission exhibit there, commission exhibit 18, and it has all of his handwritten items including a map, addresses and telephone
numbers that you would expect. the final item is a map of mexico city. oswald made a trip to mexico city prior to the assassination and brought this map home. this was acquired by dallas police and the fbi and eventually the warren commission as well. this side of the map they have a sort of smaller map with tourist spots which are identified on the side. as you can tell certain things were circled. it was like that when we received it. obviously, we wouldn't add anything like that. the back side is a larger map. again, with several items circled. i have found in secondary sources people have written that some of the items that are
circled -- i assume it's on this side -- were actually the embassies of cuba and ussr, but i haven't found the documentation of that. it would probably be in the records to document specifically what is circled on here. the context of these are all documented well in the warren commission report. in order for something to become a commission exhibit, it would have been discussed in one of the testimony that was taken by the warren commission or would have been referenced in the warren commission report. >> so 50 years later, are there still classified items? and how does the declassification process work? >> that was taken care of in the act itself. so the assassination records review board which was the independent agency had a unique power. they were -- had the capability of overruling the agencies even on the classification issue. and the only appeal that the agencies had was to the president of the united states. so while the review board was in business, they made a final
determination on the records. >> when the board reviewed these records and apply its balance judgment, we found little reason to continue to protect these records. in fact, many of them we found really should not have been protected during the 1960s, but we do have to remember the era in which this occurred, an era in which national security concerns were heightened and caused the sealing of all these important files. >> however there were a fuel, there are still some that repa main classified either in part or in full, but if you read the act it says that 25 years after the passing of the act everything must be made available. so that's october 2017, october of 2017. so we're gearing up a process to start getting the withdrawn material processed and ready for release. >> what particular challenges does this collection present to the archives that other collections might not? >> well, one of the challenges is that we have a lot of physical artifacts, and by
artifacts i mean things other than paper. we have or the of the contents of the boarding room where oswald was liveing, even things like his flip-flops and things like that here at the national archives. it's actually fairly unusual, the national archives does have artifacts. because of the huge interest of people to have access to the materials, there's always the tension between conservation and access. the way we've addressed this is trying to provide as much access as we can through still pictures the and film of the most popular artifacts in the collection. so that people can see them and have their research questions answered without actually looking at the actual physical artifact. because every time we have to make an actual item available,
we are risking a bit the conservation of the item. and so that's why for the press we have provided b roll video of the artifacts themselves, which we did prior to the 50th anniversary. so here we are in one of our conservation labs, just one of our conservators. and she's going to show us, which is fbi exhibit b-1, which is oswald's wallet, including the contents. i'm going to answer a question that a lot of people have, which is what is the staining that is on portions of those items. that is from the fingerprint chemical that was used by the fbi to try to obtain fingerprints. it ended up staining the artifact itself. so i know some people think it looks like blood. it is not blood. this would have been in oswald's possession when he was arrested, but not in his possession when
he was shot. and here she's laying out some of the items that were found, which we have encapsulate in mylar, the conservators here at security card, his selective k service notice, a service i.d., because of course he was in the marine corps at one time. also, fair play for cuba committee identification card, that was an organization he belonged to. let's see what else is interesting in here. other kinds of i.d.s, a public library card. and so, all of these are just the contents of a wallet, just like you would have in your own wallet, whatever you have right now. this is something we would not normally make available, to researchers, that is why we have filmed it. mostly because of the wallet itself even more than the content.
they you can see also some photographs that the woman in the picture is his wife marina. there you can see his marine corps photograph as well. so, the next exhibit that our conservator is showing you here is fbi exhibit k-51, which was the camera used by mr. zapruder to take a very famous film of the assassination which probably most people have seen. it's in a case. we have a case to it, which you can see. she's putting gloves on. we generally do not use gloves with paper. but with the artifacts it is common practice to wear gloves. we retain the case that we do not store the camera in a case. what you can see is the acid-free box that the camera is stored in. and the material that is inside the box to protect it as well.
so, here's, you will see that says on this label on the outside of the box, a common means we have of identifying the item so that we can keep control of them, you'll see rg 272, that refers to the record group for the records of the warren commission. our records are arranged at the national archives primarily by record group, which is the organization. so these records are just like all of the others. we maintain them in the same manner. so the next item is the t-shirt oswald was wearing when he was shot. again, it is part of the warren commission records. the fbi collected it first, and then it was transferred on to the warren commission and then eventually to the national archives. i will say we have had the records of the warren commission well before the passing of the
jfk act. those records have been open and available at the national archives for many years. so we have had these artifacts for a very long time as well. you will sometimes see on some of these artifacts that there are initials. those initials were used as a means of documenting the transfer of custody from one organization to another, dallas police on to the fbi, or between individuals within the fbi. and each one of these artifacts, you could find textual documentation in our files that would tell you more about the significance of the artifacts you are seeing here. again, this is the black sweater oswald was wearing when he was shot. our conservators have put these in acid-free boxes with tissues.
to preserve them. any labeling that would've been on the materials when they came to us, we have preserved every artifact of the artifacts. so any of these are all original labels. the national archives would not have put the labels on here. finally, this is the shirt oswald was wearing when he was shot. he was shot when he was in the custody of the dallas police, being moved from one place to another. and it was being filmed. so it was unusual. there was a lot of press available. the conservators at the national archives have experience in what we need them to. but if necessary, they will reach out to an expert. they have all been trained to deal with multiple types of materials. this item is commission exhibit 126. a blue bag that was found in oswald's effects.
it was picked up at his residence on north beckley street by dallas police officers. and so this was a tag that was affixed by them. >> so it says, charge murder there. >> right. the time that kennedy was assassinated, it was not a federal crime to kill the president. so had he gone on trial, he would've gone on trial for murder in texas. so the dallas police were investigating that. >> so, does the archive have -- had to work with the dallas police? >> no. all of these items were transferred to the fbi and then to the warren commission and finally came to the national archives. but it was within the custody of the u.s. federal government private transfer. of course, national archives has records of the u.s. federal government. we would not have the records of the dallas police had they not transferred into that custody.
this is the famous rifle which oswald used to assassinate the president. you can see the custom box created by the conservation staff. it has its own commission exhibit number, 139. we consider it part of the records of the warren commission. they were the organization who had custody last prior to transfer. the next item is this blanket.
ruth payne was the woman with whom oswald's wife and daughter were staying at the time, and oswald has stored some of his effects in their garage. and so, it is believed that he actually had wrapped the rifle in this blanket. it was found after the assassination. so next we're going to look at oswald's revolver. so, after the president was assassinated, there was also a police officer who was killed. and he was killed by oswald using this revolver. and the interesting thing that i think a lot of people do not know is that oswald was initially arrested for the murder of officer tibbit, not for the assassination of president kennedy. it was only when he was in police custody that they put together that they were looking for someone who was missing from the texas school book depository whose name was lee harvey oswald, and we already have in custody because they had him in custody for the killing of tibbit. so, this revolver is significant
for several reasons. and this is the shirt he was wearing when he was arrested. here you'll see our conservator handling it very carefully. so she's going to spend a little time and try to put it up on the form. one of the interesting things about the shirt is that the fbi was able to find a piece of the fabric from the shirt attached to the rifle itself. the rifle was found at the texas school book depository. it is another piece of evidence we used to connect oswald to the assassination. there you can see some initials put on the shirt itself. and everything i am telling you now, i just know because of working with the records. anyone could come in, read the warren commission report, and everything i'm saying is in it. they can look at the original
fbi files. the lab files of the lab technicians and scientists who worked at the fbi. did ballistics testing and fiber testing. those records are all part of the collection. and some could look through them. >> but even when you said earlier, that is the rifle that oswald used, there are people listening to this that would say, that is not true. >> that's right. what i am saying actually is the opinion of the warren commission. i should state that i have no opinion one way or another on this. but that is how it is identified in our records. and so that is how i will identify it. this is a gray zipper jacket. and the interesting thing, this also ties oswald to the murder of tibbit because the warren
commission, according to the warren commission, this jacket found near where tibbet was killed. and in the route where people saw oswald, or who they thought was oswald, after the killing of tibbet. marina, oswald's wife, verified that this jacket was oswald's. if you read the warren commission report, they will give their opinion on this, that it does tie him to the killing of tibbet. so, this is probably one of the more famous bullets in existence. it sometimes referred to as the magic bullet. i refer to it as commission exhibit 399, because that is the number that was assigned to it.
it was found on the stretcher. it is believed by the warren commission that this is the bullet that first hit president kennedy, exited through his neck, and hit governor connally sitting in front of the president. after going through his arm it was lodged into his thigh and fell off while he was on a stretcher in parkland. one thing to let people know is that we have very high quality, high resolution images of most of these artifacts. this one in particular available on www.archives.gov, through our online public access archive. opa. i want to get as many views as possible because people have questions about every aspect of this bullet. as you can imagine. >> and that container, is that a special bullet container? >> it is a container that we created ourselves in order to have it in a container where you
can see it, but it has foam on the bottom, so it can be in there without rattling around, that you could turn it and view it from different angles. so it is just a way of conserving it by trying to keep it so that if we needed to pull it out, you could visibly see it. we had special housings made by the conservators for our various bullet fragments that are associated with this case. so once the limousine was back in washington, it was gone over very carefully and there were bullet fragments found in the limousine. so that is what you're going to see here. very small bullet fragments. there is the commission exhibit number, 840. and then this is a larger fragment that was also found. it has a separate number.
there were cardboard boxes found on the sixth floor of the texas school book depository where the warren commission believes the shots were fired. and yes, those boxes are retained by the national archives and are in our stacks. boxes put into boxes. as you can see there. yet again, here is another fragment of a bullet that was found in the limousine. commission exhibit 567. so what we have here are slides of testing that was done during the time of the assassination records review board. it was determined that there was a fragment of something that was on the bullet that was not part of the bullet. there were some question about whether or not it was textile. this would've been significant
had been textile, because this is the bullet that was believed to have hit the president in the head. not the bullet that went to his neck. and so testing was done. the national archives brought in various different agencies -- fbi, armed forces institute of pathology -- to examine it and test it and make a determination. it was determined it was not textile. it was actually some sort of human tissue of some type. and so the next question was, could we determine any dna from this? and that's why we have these slides. it was determined that there was no way to get any kind of dna. there is a report on this which is available on our website. and basically that was why we had retained the slides because we would not dispose of anything. so this is kept in the same physical container as the bullet from which it was derived. here are four cartridge shells
found at the scenes of the tibbet murder. and they were able to tie these back to that revolver we saw earlier. you can see the box we have. we have a place in the box for any textual documentation. and then of course the items themselves. we also retain any previous housings, anything that it was in before, just because we want to be extremely diligent in making sure we do not lose any of the documentation related to these artifacts. these were cartridges found on oswald's custody at arrest. it was in the front pants pocket of lee harvey oswald, found by the dallas police. and again, more cartridge cases, but these are found at the texas schoolbook depository and are for the rifle.
and finally, this is a camera that was used to take a photograph which is referred to as the backyard photo, because it was a photograph of oswald in his backyard taken by his wife with this camera. yet another artifact among the collection. in that he's holding a rifle. in his other hand, he has pamphlets, political pamphlets. a pretty famous photograph. this was an inspection that was done of the original 8-millimeter zapruder film. so the zapruder film has been in our custody for a number of years, but during the time of the assassination records review board, there was an official government taking of it. where the zapruders were provided with the payment for
the value of it. and so now it is officially part of the custody of the national archives, the original. now, the copyright is retained. and i believe that the zapruder family has given the copyrights over to the texas sixth floor museum which is in the old texas schoolbook depository. if someone were to come here, they could look at it. if you were to choose to duplicate it and publish it, you would need to get the copyright. the permission. if you were to come in to see it, you would be watching a duplicate of the original, which is true for any of our films, because we want to make sure they are preserved when you come to look at films at the national archives -- you're looking at a reference copy. we have a motion picture sound and video branch within the national archives, which of
course, is the portion of our agency that takes care of all motion pictures and sound recordings. they have custody of this item. you can see some of the images, which probably look familiar to people. i believe the zapruder film is also available through commercial outlets as well. >> the original artifact itself, how would that be stored and how often does anybody do what she's doing? >> very rarely. this was done for a special effort. is my understanding. as color film, it is my understanding that this is stored in cold storage because that will help to retain the preservation of the color. in a lot of ways we treat the film as an artifact where we are trying to conserve it. for all time. so it is in cold storage -- it is not taken out. >> from your perspective, all
this effort put into preserving things, why is that important? >> that is our mission at the national archives. our job is to make sure the history of the u.s. government is preserved for all time. there is only a small percentage of records, 2% or 3% considered important enough to come to the national archives. if it is important enough to come here, we need to preserve it for all time. we work with our conservators. we have access policies to work with our researchers. we are trying to digitize our records to make them available on the web so anyone anywhere can have access to the records of the national archives. you've been watching c-span's american history tv. you can connect with us on
facebook and leave comments there. and check out our upcoming programs at our website. we'd like to tell you about some of our other american history tv program. join us sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for real america, featuring archival films by government and other institutions. that's reel america, every sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. here's a look at some of the programs you'll find christmas day on the c-span networks. the lighting of the national christmas tree at 10:00 a.m., and theitol
christmas tree. and at 8:00 p.m., the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span 2 at 10:00 a.m., venture into the art of good writing. and then jill lepore and the secret history of wonder woman. and on american history tv at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole. then first ladies' fashion. and then tom brokaw on his years of reporting world events.
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