PhilaU JFK, Specter exhibit allows you to test your own theory

Whether you think Lee Harey Oswald acted alone, with others or not even at all can be tested at a Philadelphia University exhibit that recently opened, examining the Single Bullet Theory made famous by former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter when he was a junior attorney with the Warren Commission.

The exhibit, called “Single Bullet: Arlen Specter & the Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination,” is the first exhibit of the Center for Public Policy named after the late senator. A team of students and professors for one year worked on it, researching, designing and building the entire thing.

What sets this exhibit apart from other JFK ones around the city is it’s interactive — visitors can test their own theories by physically putting themselves in the situation Kennedy was in 50 years ago Friday.

“The students decided as a group the visitors should be put into the place of Arlen Specter, into the place of JFK,” said David Kratzer, associate professor of architecture who worked on the project with students. “That led into putting yourself into the place of Zapruder, who videotaped the event.”

A life-sized model of the limousine JFK sat in the time of his death is the main attraction and it uses computer monitors to show where two bullets hit him that day.

There’s also an investigation room portion of the exhibit where visitors can learn about Specter’s controversial theory that a single bullet hit both JFK and Gov. John Connally.
The students researched for months.

“We went very in depth with the assassination itself before we even started the design phase,” said graduate Ted Nicholas, who worked on the exhibit.

Amanda Bonelli, a fourth-year architecture student who came into the project later than some of the other students, said doing research on all the different exhibition elements made her think.

“You feel different emotional pulls in different areas,” she said. “Working on individual pieces really led you investigate things yourself.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays until April 2014. It’s supported with a $100,000 grant from PNC Foundation.

A new generation

The students wanted to make the exhibit more interactive to reach a different audience.

“We’re drawn to things that enable us to move around and sort of capture our attention,” Benelli said. “This allows it to become a tangible thing.”

Kratzer said he tries to teach about JFK’s assassination as the threshold to the turbulent 60s. “I think working on this really gave them a great vehicle to place this moment in history. For someone to take a shot from a window and kill your president is still a pretty amazing thing.”

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