tv American Artifacts CSPAN December 24, 2014 12:39pm-1:12pm EST
festivities start at 10 a.m. eastern on c-span 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. and just after 12:30 p.m., celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, supreme court justice samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span2 at 10 a.m. eastern, venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker. and at 12:30 see the feminine side of a super hero as jill lapore searches the secret history of wonder woman. at 7 p.m. author pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. on american history tv on c-span3 at 8 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george w. 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 stilsz of
the times in which they lived. and at 10:00, former nbc news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's this christmas day on the c-span networks. 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. and we'll see video recorded by the national archives of many of the well-known artifacts from the investigation. including lee harvey oswald's rifle, the so-called magic bullet and the camera originals zapruder film. our guide is martha wagner murphy. >> the president john f. kennedy
assassination records collection was created because of the president john f. kennedy assassination records collection act of 1992. so, 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 and then, of course, house select committee on assassinations. and then in the early '90s there was a movie that came out by oliver stone and at the end of that movie, he made a point of saying that all the records had now been open and available. >> mr. chairman, members of the subcommittee, my name is oliver stone. and i assure you it is with pleasure and some pride that i appear before this subcommittee today to urge the passage of house joint resolution 454. quote, to provide for the expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the assassination of president john f. kennedy. >> the purpose of the act was to make sure that all of the
records that were considered assassination related were collected, sent to the national archives and open to the greatest extent possible. there was an independent agency created, that was temporary, whose job was to make sure that the agencies were complying with this. and also to determine -- make sure that the records were open to the greatest extent possible. so, in response to that act, we created the collections and the collection has been here at the national archives ever since. we estimate that there's about 5 million textual 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 in our holdings, all they would need to do is come here and ask to have access. there are various finding aids on our website, www.archives.gov. the national archives has
created a database of items released after '92 in response to the act. in fact, the database entries were created by the agencies that were still holding the records, the national archives created the database itself. and then all of 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 are 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. okay. 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 the first item 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, event lually given overo the fbi and became an exhibit of the warren commission. the seconds 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. they have this handy little lift so you can get it out of its well without having to pull on it. you can see there's a commission exhibit number on there. commission exhibit 18. and it has all of his handwritten items, including a map, addresses and telephone numbers.
as 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. on this side of the map they have a sort of smaller map with tourist spots, which are identified on this side. as can you tell, certain things were circled. it was like that when we received it. obviously, we wouldn't add anything like that. the backside is a larger map. again, with several items circled. i had found in secondary sources people have written that these -- some of the items that are circled, and i assume it's
on this side, were actually the embassies of cuba and the ussr, but i have not found the primary documentation of that. it's probably in the records that would document specifically what is circled on here. of course, the context for 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? >> well, 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 a 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 applied its balanced 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 which national security concerns were heightened and caused the sealing of all of these important files. >> however, there were a few. there's still some that were renamed classified in part or in full. if you read the act, it says 25 years after the passing of the act everything must be made available. so that will be 2017, october of 2017. so we're already actually gearing up a process to get 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. by artifacts, i mean, things
other than paper. we have sort of the contents of the boarding room where oswald was living. even things like his flip-flops and odd things like that. here at the national archives. and it's actually fairly unusual. the national archives does have some other artifacts but we're mostly a paper agency. and because of the huge interest in this, we have numerous people who want to have access to these materials. and so there's always a tension between conservation and access. and so, that's probably been our biggest challenge. and the way we have addressed that is by trying to provide as much access as we can through still pictures and film of the most popular artifacts that are 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 with one of our conservators. and she is 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 encapsulated in mylar. the conservators here we have. some of the items that are in the wallet were things like his social security card, his selective service notice, a service i.d. because he was in the marine corps at one time. also, a fair play for cuba committee identification card. that was an organization that he belonged to. let's see. what else is interesting in here? other i.d., public library card. so all of these are just the contents of a wallet like you would have in your own wallet, whatever you have right now. this is something that we wouldn't normally make available to researchers. that's why we have filmed it. mostly because of the wallet itself, even more than the
contents. there you can see he also had some photographs that -- the woman in the picture is his wife. there you can see his marine corps photograph as well. so the next exhibit is fbi exhibit k-51 which was the camera used to take a very famous film of the assassination which probably most people have seen. it's in a case or we have a case to it, which you can see right there. as you can see, she's putting gloves on. we generally don't use gloves with paper items. but with the artifacts, it's common practice to waear a cottn gl glove. we do not store the camera in the case, which you can see here is the acid free box that the camera is stored in. and the material that's inside
the box to protect it as well. so here is -- you will see that says on this label, which is on the outside of the box, it's a common means that we have of identifying the item so we can keep control. you will see rg 272, that refers to the record group for the warren commission. our records are arranged primarily here at the national archive bs by record group. these are like all of the others, we have maintains them in the same manner. so the next item is the t-shirt that oswald was wearing when he was shot. again, it is part of the warren commission records. it says fbi exhibit because the fbi collected it first. 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.
and those records were about 90% -- 98% open prior to the passing of the act. those records have been open and available here 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 the artifacts that there are inissues. those initials were used as a means of documenting the transfer of custody from one organization to another, like the dallas police on to the fbi or between individuals within the fbi. and each one of these artifacts, you could fine in our files. this is the sweater he was wearing when he was shot. we have the -- they have put these in acid free boxes with acid free tissue to preserve
them. any laboring that would have been on the materials when they came to us we have preserved every artifact of the artifact. so any of these are all original labels. the national archives would not have placed the labels on here. this is the shirt that 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. it was unusual. there was a lot of press available. the conservators here have experience in pretty much everything we need them to. but if necessary, they certainly will reach out to an expert. but they have all been -- that's their education. they have been trained with deal with multiple materials. this item is commission exhibit 126. it was a blue bag that was found in oswald's affects.
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 then. >> it says charge murder there. >> right. the thing to remember about the assassination is at the time that kennedy was assassinated, it was not a federal crime to kill the president. he would have gone on trial for murder in texas. so the dallas police were investigating that. >> does the archives have to work -- had to work with the dallas police? >> no. because all of these items were transferred to the fbi and then to the warren commission who would have given it the exhibit number and then it came to the national archives. it was within the custody of the u.s. federal government prior to transfer to us. national archives has the records of the u.s. federal government.
this is the famous rifle, which oswald used to assassinate the president. again, you can see the custom box that was created by the national archives conservation staff. again, it has its own commission exhibit number. which is commission exhibit 139. and we consider it part of the records of the warren commission. they were the organization who had custody last prior to transfer. so the next item is this blanket. this is the blanket found in the house of ruth payne. ruth payne was the woman with whom oswald's wife and daughter were staying at the time. oswald had stored some of his affects, i believe in their
garage. and so it is it believed that he actually had wrapped the rifle in this blanket while it was in ruth payne's garage. and it was found after the assassination. so next we will 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 don't know is that oswald was initially arrested for the murder of the officer, 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 depository whose name was lee harvey oswald and we have him in custody because they had had him in custody for the killing of the officer.
so this revolver is significant for several reasons. and this is the shirt that he was wearing when he was arrested. here you will see our conservator handling it very carefully. she's going to, i think, spend a little time and try to put it on the form so you can see what it looks like. one of the interesting things about the shirt is that the fbi was able to find a piece of the fabric from the shirt actually attached to the rifle itself. and the rifle was found at the texas school depository. it's another piece of evidence used to connect oswald to the assassination. there you can see some initials. put on the shirt itself. everything that i'm telling you now, i just know because of working with the records. anyone could come in, they could read the warren commission report and most everything i'm saying is in the warren
commission report. they can look at the original fbi files, the lab files of the lab technicians and scientists who worked at the fbi and did ballistics testing and fiber testing and all of that. those records are all part of the collection. someone could come in and look through them themselves. >> even when you said earlier that that's the rifle that oswald used to kill the president, there are people listening to this that will say, that's not true. >> that's right. what i'm saying is the opinion of the warren commission. i guess i should state that i have no opinion one way or another on this. but that's how it is identified in our records. so that's how i will identify it to you. this is a gray zipper jacket. and the interesting thing, this also ties oswald to the murder of the officer because the --
according to the warren commission, this jacket was found sort of thrown, ditched near where he was killed. and in the route that people saw oswald or who they thought was oswald taken after the killing. so his wife then verified that this jacket was oswald's jacket. so if you read the warren commission report, they will give their opinion on this, that it does tie him to the killing of the officer. so this is probably one of the more famous bullets in existence. it is sometimes referred to as at magic bullet. i refer to it as commission exhibit 399. that's the number that was assigned to it by the warren commission. it was found on a hospital stretcher. it is believed by the warren commission that this is the
bullet that first hit president kennedy, exited through his neck and actually hit the governor who was sitting in front of the president. after going through his body, his arm, it was lodged into his thigh, they believe and actually fell off while he was on a stretcher. again, one thing to let people know is that we had 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 catalog. when i try to give as many views of this as possible, because people have questions about every aspect of this bullet, as you can imagine. >> that container, is that just -- is that a special bullet container? >> it's a container that we created ourselves in order to have it in a container where you
can see it but that it is -- has a plug on the top and some foam on the bottom so that it can be in there without rattling around but you could turn it and view it from different angles. so it's just a way of conserving it but trying to keep it so that if we needed to pull it out for some reason we could -- you could actually visit -- visibly see it. we had special housings made by the conservators here at the national archives for our various bullet fragments and bullets 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. and so that's what you are 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's a separate commission
number. there were cardboard boxes found on the sixth floor of the texas school book depository where the warren commission believed 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. and yet again, here is another fragment of a bullet that was found from the limousine. 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. and there was some question about whether or not it was textile. this would have been significant had it been textile because this was the bullet that was believed to have hit the president in the
head, not the one that went through his neck. so testing was done -- the national archives brought in various different agencies, fbi, armed forces institution of pathology to examine it and test it and make the determination. it was determined that it was not textile. it is actually some sort of human tissue of some type. so then the next question was, could we determine any kind of dna from this. and it was -- that's why we have these slides here. and it was determined there was no way to get any kind of dna out of this. there is a report on this, which is available on our website. basically, that was why we have retained these slides, because we would not dispose of anything. so this is kept in the same fictional container as the bullet from which it was
derived. here are four cartridge shells found at the scene of the tippet murder. and they were able to tie these back to that revolver that we saw earlier. so you can see the box that we have. we have a place in the box for any kind of documentation that goes with it 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 dill l lly diligent. 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 were found at the texas school book depository and
are for the rifle. finally, this is a camera that was used to take a photograph which is referred to generally as the backyard photo, because it was a photograph of oswald in his backyard taken by his wife with this camera. yet another artifact that's among the collection. and in that he is holding a rifle and in his other hand he has pamphlets -- political pamphlets. it's a pretty famous photograph. this was an inspection that was done of the original 8 millimeter film. so the film had been in our custody for a number of years. during the time of the review board, there was an official government taking of it where they were provided with a
payment for the value of it. so now it is officially part of the custody of the national archives, the original. the copy right is retained. and i believe that the family has given the copyrights over to the -- sixth floor museum, in the old texas school book depository. if someone were to come here, they could look at it. it's just that if you were to choose to duplicate it and publish it, that you would need to get the copyright in order to do that, permission under the copyright. 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 films are preserved when you come to lock at films here at the national archives, you are looking at a reference copy of the film. we have motion picture sound and video here within the national
archives. which, of course, is exactly what it says it is. it's the portion of our agency that takes care of all motion pictures and sound recordings. they have custody of this item. it's interesting, you can see some of the images which probably look familiar to me. i believe the film is available through commercial resources, commercial outlets as well. >> the original artifact itself, how would that be stored and how often does anybody do what she's doing? >> very, very rarely. this was done for a special effort, is my understanding. as a color film, it is my understanding that this is stored in cold storage, because cold storage will help to retain the preservation of the color. so in a lot of ways, we treat the film itself like an artifact where we are trying to conserve it for all time. so it is in cold storage and not taken out. >> from your perspective, all this effort put into preserving
things, why is that important? >> well, that's our mission here at the national archives. our job is to make sure that the history of the u.s. government is preserved for all time. there's only a very small percentage of records, 2% to 3% that are considered important enough to come here to the national archives. if it's 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. and increasingly, we're trying to digitalize our records and make them available on the web so anyone, anywhere can have access. you have been watching c-span's american history tv. we want to hear from you.
we would like to tell you about some of our other programs. join us sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for reel america, featuring films by government and institution al groups. sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. here is a look at some of the programs you will find christmas day on the c-span networks. a lighting of the national christmas tree, followed by the whitehouse christmas decorations with first lady michele obama and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. just after 12:30 p.m., celebrity
activists talk about their causes. at 8:00, the bill of rights and the founding fathers. venture into the art of good writing and at 12:30, the feminist side of a super hero. at 7:00, the reading habits. and on american history tv, at 8:00 a.m., the fall of the berlin wall with footage of president george bush and bob dole with speeches. at noon, fashion experts on first ladies' fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times. at 10:00, tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's this christmas day on the c-span networks.