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By David Tarrant
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS--Thousands will descend on Dealey Plaza in November for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But one of the most intriguing sites related to the tragedy is 95 miles south, tucked away at Baylor University in Waco.
The W.R. Poage Legislative Library contains a JFK assassination archive that is quietly growing into one of the nation's premier collections.
In recent years, more than a dozen researchers, authors and experts on the assassination have donated work accumulated during their lifetimes. The files include hundreds of thousands of public documents, photos, recordings, reel-to-reel films and other materials about the tragedy and subsequent investigation--or, depending on your point of view, government cover-up.
In 2012, the Poage Library scored several major acquisitions, including a shipment of 103 boxes of materials from the Mary Ferrell Foundation, named for the Dallas legal secretary who was considered a central figure among JFK assassination experts. By the time of her death in 2004, she had amassed a large database on the subject, including more than 40,000 index cards with names and details that she eventually computerized.
"They've certainly been active the last few years in building up this JFK collection," said Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, based in Ipswich, Mass. He is a computer software expert who created the foundation's popular online resource.
Gary Shaw, a Cleburne architect and author who has researched the Kennedy assassination since the 1960s, said while other places make Kennedy materials available online, the Poage Library is distinctive because it is also an archive that preserves and protects the materials, as well as making them publicly available.
"This is a well-funded and well-run place," said Shaw, who has placed part of his extensive research collection with the Poage. "What's the use of putting anything [someplace else] if it's going to walk out the door or rot?"
One of several libraries at Baylor, Poage is a two-story, 25,000-square-foot building. It opened in 1979 and houses extensive political materials.
Other Dallas-area university libraries and institutions, including The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, have JFK-related materials. Most are focused on one or two singular collections.
The Poage Library does not take a stand on the issue of whether the Kennedy assassination was the work of a lone gunman or a conspiracy, said Ben Rogers, the Poage's director and archivist.
JFK RESOURCE CONSORTIUM
In November, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza launched the JFK Resource Consortium, a Web portal with links to various JFK-related collections and archives around Texas. Along with Baylor University's Poage Library, the site includes links to two dozen institutions, including many universities in North Texas.
Each institution has something different to offer researchers pursuing an angle on the Kennedy assassination, said Krishna Shenoy, librarian of The Reading Room at the Sixth Floor Museum.