Philadelphia University has a good idea for commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination: create a learning experience where people can explore one of the central controversies of the story and decide for themselves. The question is whether the exhibit designers are truly open-minded.
Design students at the north Philadelphia school are building a life-sized, wire-frame of the 1961 Lincoln stretch limo that Kennedy rode in that fateful day in Dallas that will be the centerpiece of an exhibit called “Single Bullet: Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission investigation of the JFK assassination.”
Visitors will be able to sit in the limousines in the place of President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally as well as explore documents and photos from Specter’s personal archives, which he donated to the university in December 2010 as part of its Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy. Specter’s controversial Single Bullet Theory posits that one bullet wounded JFK and Texas Governor John Connally in seven different places and emerged largely undamaged on a hospital stretcher.
The exhibit, which will be housed in the university’s Paul J. Gutman Library, “was not created to nudge visitors to agree with Specter’s theory one way or the other, according to the university’s press release.”
“We wanted to present what we felt was as unbiased a view as possible, but present his viewpoint and what Specter did to investigate and what the evidence was and how he meticulously went through the evidence to draw his conclusions,” said Karen Albert, the library’s director and coordinator of the center.
Specter meticulously evaded the testimony of John Connally who flatly rejected his hypothesis. Connally and his wife testified that the first shot hit JFK and the second shot him. “It is not conceivable to me that I could have been hit by the first bullet,” Connally told the Warren Commission. Connally maintained this position for the rest of his life. If Connally was right, Specter’s theory is wrong.
The Single Bullet Theory was endorsed by the pathologists who performed JFK’s autopsy. It has been criticized by Dr. Gary Aguilar and others. Computer animator Dale Myers says his reconstruction of the crime scene shows that the Single Bullet Theory is plausible.
The Philadelphia University exhibit cannot settle the question but if done properly, could help people understand the problematic nature of the evidence.