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For several months, TSLAC Conservation has been preparing for TSLAC’s upcoming exhibit, “Texas Investigates: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Wounding of Governor John B. Connally.”  This exhibit will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, TX.  The exhibit’s centerpiece, on display for the first time since 1964, is the suit worn by Texas Governor John Connally in the Kennedy motorcade.  Connally was non-fatally wounded by gunfire that day, and his suit bears silent testimony to the tragic event.

Careful support and cushioning are required in the display of historical clothing so that fragile garments are not damaged by their own weight.  In July, conservator Sarah Norris began the process of customizing the dress forms on which the Connally suit and shirt will be displayed.  Shoulder supports and stomach padding were created to fit the exact measurements of the clothing.  Arm and leg supports were also added.  Though the shoulder supports are highly structured, the arm supports are very pliable so that the figure can be dressed with minimal stress to the garment.   A slick, spun polyester fabric allows the shirt to slip easily over the arm supports and onto the customized dress form.

Exhibit dress forms

Dress forms before and during customization. All supports are made with archival materials and sewn by hand to fit the measurements of the shirt and suit.

The French cuffs on Governor Connally’s shirt posed a special challenge.  These cuffs must be exhibited folded in the manner they were worn to allow logical display of the bullet holes in that region.  Cufflinks were originally used to maintain this fold, but the Governor’s cufflinks were not included when the suit was donated to TSLAC.  To solve this problem, Norris constructed two small stays made of linen thread, museum board, and cotton muslin.  The stays function like the original cufflinks, but their color and texture blends with the shirt without drawing visual attention to non-original items.

Exhibit cuff stays

The small size and neutral cotton fabric of the cuff stays allow them to blend sympathetically with the shirt.

“Texas Investigates: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Wounding of Governor John B. Connally” opens October 22.  In addition to the Connally suit, the exhibit will spotlight Texas state investigations of the assassination, including those conducted by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety.  TSLAC Conservation welcomes the opportunity to prepare these meaningful items for public observation and commemoration.

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