MURRAY, Ky. —A new museum exhibit is opening soon at Murray State University that explores the 1960 presidential election of John F. Kennedy with an emphasis on the former U.S. president’s campaign in west Kentucky and, specifically, in the Jackson Purchase region.

“Kennedy Comes to Kentucky” will be on display Nov. 14 through March 14 in Wrather West Kentucky Museum, located on Murray State’s campus.

“Wrather Museum’s mission is to highlight and promote an understanding of the social, cultural and economic development of the region,” said Ashley Ireland, dean of University Libraries at Murray State. “The exhibit curated by Dr. Jeff McLaughlin offers a compelling look at the personal thoughts and discussions of west-Kentuckians during JFK’s campaign visit through the area.”

In the lead-up to the 1960 presidential election, Kentucky was considered a generally Democratic-leaning state. For that reason, Kennedy should have easily won the state but, on election night, lost Kentucky to his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon. However, while Kennedy lost the state overall, he did win the national election and claimed victory in most of west Kentucky, including all eight counties in the Jackson Purchase area.

Murray State’s “Kennedy Comes to Kentucky” exhibit explores the factors in Kentucky’s voting trends and invites guests to ponder questions that touch on core aspects of political and religious identity in the greater region.

“I hope the exhibit encourages visitors, whatever their partisan affiliation, to recognize the value of keeping an open mind when they go to the ballot box,” said Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, the exhibit’s curator, whose research includes a concentration on Kennedy and the Vietnam War.

“Kennedy Comes to Kentucky” will feature historic photos, campaign memorabilia and assorted historical documents in addition to video screens and iPad apps included in the exhibition room. Several materials on display originated from Murray State’s special collections and Pogue Library. Additional materials were loaned to the University from the archives unit at Western Kentucky University. The overall exhibit was curated by McLaughlin, an instructor in the department of history who has been working with special projects in the Wrather Museum this fall.

The Wrather West Kentucky Museum is located on Murray State’s campus. It is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at no charge. The exhibit itself will officially open Nov. 14 with a Town & Gown reception at 5 p.m. following the State of the University Address in Wrather Museum.

A section of the museum, including a display case and artwork.
The “Kennedy Comes to Kentucky” exhibit will be on display beginning Nov. 14 in Murray State University’s Wrather West Kentucky Museum. The exhibit will explore the 1960 presidential election of John F. Kennedy with an emphasis on the former U.S. president’s campaign in west Kentucky and, specifically, in the Jackson Purchase region.