tv American Artifacts JFK Assassination Records CSPAN December 20, 2017 3:38pm-4:10pm EST
most dangerous negro from the standpoint of communism, the negro and national security. >> former members of congress and vietnam war veterans reflect on lessons learned and ignored during the war. >> we learned the limits of military power during the vietnam war. we learned that as a society, as a culture, that you can't kill an idea with a bullet. >> american history tv. this weekend, only on c-span3. since july of 2017, the national archives has released thousands of documents related to the john f. kennedy assassination. many of these documents had been with hella withheld by the cia and fbi for alleged national security reasons. the document releases are mandated by the president john f. kennedy assassination records collection act of 1982, and will continue into 2018, though some of the documents contain redactions. up next on american artifacts
from 2014, our visit to the national archives to learn about the assassination records and to see some of the iconic artifacts, such as lee harvey oswald's rifle, the so-called magic bullet, and the original .8 millimeter film taken by abraham zapruder. our guide is martha murphy. >> the president john f. kennedy 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, the 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 the movie, he made a point of saying that all of the records had not 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. >> and so 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. there was temporary whose job it was to make sure the agencies were complying with this. and also to determine -- make sure the records were open to the greatest extent possible. so in response to that act, we created the collection, and the collection has been here at the national archives ever since. we estimate 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 to come here and ask to have access. there are various finding aids available on our website, www.archives.gov. the national archives has created a database of the items that were 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, 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 you would 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 he 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 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 over 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 this 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 number on 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. on this side of the map, they have a sort of smaller map with tourist spots, which are identified on this 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 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 which document specifically what is chiropractircled 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 in which national security concerns were heightened and cause the ceiling of all of these important files. >> however, there were a few -- there are still some -- that were -- remain 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. and so that will be 2017 -- october of 2017. and so we're already actually 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 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 50s 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 at the national archives. and 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, of course, 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 kinds of i.d. cards. 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 that we wouldn't normally make available to researchers, and that's why we have filmed it. mostly because of the wallet itself, even more than the contents. there you can see also had some photographs that the woman in the picture is his wife, marina. and 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, 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 is common practice to wear a cotton glove. so we retain the case, but we do not store the camera in a case, and what 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 you will see that on this label which is on the outside of the box, it's 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. that's the record group for the records of the warren commission. and our records are arranged primarily here at the national archives by record groups, which is the organization. these records are just like all the others.
we have maintained 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. you'll see it says fbi exhibit because 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. 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 these artifacts that there are initials. those initials wer used as a means of documenting the transfer of custody from one organization to another, like 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're seeing here. and again, this is the black sweater that oswald was wearing when he was shot. again, we have our conservators have put these in acid-free boxes with acid-free tissue to preserve them. and any labeling that would have been on the materials when they came to us, we have preserved every artifact of the artifact. so these are all original labels. the national archives would not have placed these labels on here. and finally, this is the shirt that oswald was wearing when he was shot. of course, 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 here at the national archives 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 -- their education, they have been trained to deal with multiple types of materials. and this item is commission exhibit 126. and it was 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. and the thing to remember about the assassination, the time that kennedy was assassinated, it was not a federal crime to kill the president. and so had he gone on trial, he would have gone on trial for murder in texas. and so the dallas police were investigating that.
>> so does the archives have to work -- had to work with the dallas police? >> no, because all these items were transferred to the fbi and then to the warren commission, who would have given it to the commission exhibit number, 126, and then finally, it came to the national archives, but it was within the custody of the u.s. federal government prior to transfer to us, because of course, national archives has the 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 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. because they were the organization who had custody last prior to transfer.
so the next item is this blanket, and this is the blanket that was found in the house of ruth payne, and ruth payne was the woman with whom oswald's wife and daughter were staying at the time. and oswald had stored some of his effects, i believe, in their garage. and so it is believed he actually had wrapped the rifle in this blanket while it was in ms. payne's garage and it was found after the assassination. 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 don't know is that oswald was initially
arrested for the murder of officer tibbets. not for the assassination of president kennedy, and 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 gold book depository whose name was lee harvey oswald, and oh, we already have him in custody because they had him in custody for the killing of tibbets. so this revolver is significant for several reasons. and this is the shirt that he was wearing when he was arrested. and here you'll see our conservator handling it very carefully. so she's going to, i think, spend a little time and try to put it up 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 book depository. so it's just another piece of evidence that was used to connect oswald to the assassination. there you can see some initials. actually put on the shirt itself. and everything that i'm telling you now, just know because of working with the records, so anyone could come in, they could read the warren commission report, and most everything i'm saying is actually in the warren commission report. they can look at the original fbi files. the lab files of the lab technicians and the scientists who worked with the fbi, did ballistics testing and fiber testing and all of that. those records are all part of the collection, and someone could come in and look through them themselves. >> but even when you said earlier that that's the rifle that oswald used to kill the president, there were people listening to this who will say that's not true. >> that's right. and so what i'm saying actually is, the opinion of the warren commission.
and 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 tibbets because according to the warren commission, this jacket was found sort of thrown, ditched, near where tibbets was killed. and people saw who they thought was oswald taken after the killing, so marina then, oswald's wife, verified this jacket was oswald's jacket. so if you read the warren commission report, they will
give their opinion on this, but it does tie him to the killing. so this is probably one of the more famous bullets in existence. it is sometimes referred to as the magic bullet. i refer to it as commission exhibit 399, because 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 governor connelly, who was sitting in front of the president. after going through his body, his arm, it was lodged into his thigh, they believe, and fell off while he was in the stretcher in parkland. and again, one thing to let people know is 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 catalog, opa. want to try to give as many views of this as possible because people have questions about every aspect of this, as you can imagine. >> and that container, is that just -- is that a special bullet container? >> it's a container that we have created ourselves in order to have it in a container where you can see it. but that it has a plug on the top and some film on the bottom so 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 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, of course, it was gone over very carefully, and there were bullet fragments found in the limousine. and so that's 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. as a separate commission exhibit number. there were cardboard boxes that were 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's another fragment of a bullet that was found from the limousine. commission exhibit 567. okay, so what we have here are
slides of testing that we have done during the time of the assassination records review board, it was determined 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. and this would have been significant had it been textile because this is the bullet that was believed to have hit the president in the head. not the bullet that went through his neck. and so testing was done. the national archives brought in various different agencies, fbi, armed forces institute of pathology, you can see here, to examine it and test it and make the determination. it was determined that it was not textile. it was actually some sort of human tissue of some type. and 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 that 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. and basically, that was why we have retained these slides, because we will 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 scene of the tibbets 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 textual 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 diligent in making sure that we don't lose any of
the documentation relating to any of 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 were found at the texas school book depository and are for the rifle. and finally, this is a camera that was used to take a photograph that is referred to generally as the backyard photo, because it's a photograph of oswald in the backyard, taken by his wife with this camera. yet another artifacts that's among the collection. and in that, he is holding a rifle and in his other hand, he has pamphlets, political
pamphlets. pretty famous photograph. this is an intersection that was done of the .8 millimeter zapruder film. the film had been in our custody for a number of years, but there was an official government taking of it where the zapruders were provided with a 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 copyright over to the texas sixth floor museum, which is in the old texas school book depository. but if someone were to come here, they could, of course, look at it. if you were to choose to duplicate it and publish it, you would need to get the copyright in order to get that permission
under the copyright. and 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 look at films here at the national archives, you're looking at a reference copy of the film. we have motion picture sound and video branch here within the national archives which of course is exactly what it says it is, the portion of our agency that takes care of all motion pictures and sound recordings. they have custody of this item. interesting, you can actually see some of the images which probably look familiar to people. i believe the zapruder film is also 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. and a lot of ways, we treat the film itself almost like an artifact where we are trying to conserve it for all time and 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. governance is preserved for all times. and you know, 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. so we work with our conservators. we have policies to work with researchers. and increasingly, we're trying to digitize our records and make
them available on the web so that anyone anywhere can have access to the records of the national archives. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, professor aaron bell talks about privacy laws and federal surveillance of civil rights leaders. >> here's the head of the william sullivan shortly after the march on washington, we must mark king now if we have not before as the most dangerous negro if we have not before. sunday at 4:30 p.m., former members of congress and vietnam war veterans reflect on lessons learned and ignored during the war. >> the limits of military power during the vietnam war. we learned that as a society, as
a culture that you can't kill an idea with a bullet. american history tv, this weekend only on c-span3. president john f. kennedy was assassinated on november 22nd, 1963, in dallas. abraham zapruder captured the moments. 26 seconds, the personal history of the zapruder films. this is 90 minutes. good evening, everyone. welcome back to the hilltop, welcome back to smu to dallas hall and