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Teachers and community members can help young community members explore and contribute to their cultural heritage by arranging learning expeditions that include the ALERT processes.

The Heritage Project is an educational initiative that began as a partnership between the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Montana Historical Society, and the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Teachers work with these cultural agencies and with their communities to conduct learning expeditions that explore large and enduring questions through the medium of local knowledge.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The assassination of John F. Kennedy
   A nation connected by television

At 12.39 pm, Central Standard Time, newspaper editors around the world heard five bells to signal that an important story was coming. Then their UPI teletype machines began clacking at sixty words per minute: “DALLAS,NOV.22(UPI)--THREE SHOTS WERE FIRED AT PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S MOTORCADE IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS.? It was November 22, 1963, and the world had changed, though nobody yet understood what that meant.

Television journalists read the news off their teletype machines and began scrambling. Within a half-hour ABC, CBS, and NBC had suspended their regular programming to cover the story from Dallas. About a half hour after that, America knew that John F. Kennedy, their handsome young president, was dead.

CBS announced that it would not resume normal programming until after the funeral, and shortly later the other two networks announced similar plans.

They were going to stay on the air, covering the events as they unfolded. No such thing had ever been attempted by the networks before. The first challenge for NBC was simply to get a telephone line from Washington to Dallas. Television cameras were huge and heavy, connected to enormous wires and cables, and it took two hours to warm one up enough for it to transmit. Without satellites, video signals needed to be transmitted via cables and microwave relay towers.

Nonetheless, engineers and technicians made connections and reporters rushed to get information and to patch together instant documentaries from file footage. Across the nation, people watched hour after hour as journalists stayed on the air, often with nothing new to report, grabbing interviews with anyone who would talk to them. When Air Force One landed back in Washington with Lyndon Johnson, the newly sworn in president, cameras were there. Americans caught glimpses of Jacqueline Kennedy, with bloodstains on her dress. Johnson stepped to the cameras and addressed the nation from the runway. “I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help--and God’s.?

Two days later, the networks cut from coverage of the funeral preparations in Washington back to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, had been shot to death on camera while being moved from the city jail to the county jail.

No one who saw the images during those days in November ever forgot them. The important and the powerful were getting their information at the same time and in the same way as the poor and humble–by watching television. According to Nielsen, 93% of televisions in the nation were tuned to the coverage. Over the four days from Kennedy’s assassination till his funeral, the role of television in American life was transformed. We were wired.
The Kennedy assassination was the first time an ongoing historic event was experienced simultaneously by people watching television across the nation.

It would not be the last.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 12/28 at 01:00 AM
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The Digital Classroom (National Archives)

A Biography of America with Primary Documents (Annenberg)

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Words and Deeds in American History Chronological list of primary documents (Library of Congress)

Civics Timeline American history timeline with primary documents (National Endowment for the Humanities)

American Journeys Eyewitness accounts of historical expeditions by the Wisconsin Historical Society and National History Day

Expeditions (National Geographic)

Radio Documentaries American RadioWorks

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Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation)

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Many to Many a group weblog on social software

Xplanazine

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Educause Review

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Instead of Thinking an educational jargon generator

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