Library Denies Attendance is Problem

J.F.K. Museum Director Says Trend is Now Upward

Denying a New York Times report that decreasing attendance at the John F. Kennedy Library on Boston Harbor might endanger the institution, the library's director said yesterday the presidential museum is "not in the desperate pain the article indicated."

Dan H. Fenn Jr. '44 said attendance figures at the library have increased, not decreased, recently, adding, "There is a very clear trend upwards."

The article in yesterday's New York Times said that only 395,000 people toured the building in the last year, a 34-per-cent-drop from 598,000 in 1979.

Jan H. Williamson, director of public relations at the library, yesterday confirmed the figures but said that the library had expected lower attendance. "We opened in October 1978 and our 1979 attendance was high because of the initial interest," he said, adding, "It is quite usual for a 20-per-cent-drop in attendance to occur in museums from the first year to the second."

Fenn also blamed "the really messy winter" for the decline. He added that last year, the library did more research business than any other presidential library in the country.

The Times article suggested that the attendance drop might be due to "the library's misleading name and its isolated location near a low-income housing project with a reputation for crime." Williamson said the housing project is not a problem.

Fenn agreed the library is difficult to get to, adding that 60 per cent of the Boston visitors come from the South Shore.

The library was originally supposed to be built on the site of the Brattle Street MBTA Station, next to the present Kennedy School of Government on the site chosen by Kennedy when he visited Boston in 1963.

Subsequently, though, several people began to oppose the project, primarily because an environmental report in 1975 predicted that 1.2 million tourists would visit the museum annually, further congesting Harvard Square traffic.

In 1975 the library corporation decided not to build either the library's museum or archives in Cambridge, but in Columbia Point, next to the new Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts.

Williamson said yesterday that had original estimates on attendance at the library been closer to the actual figure of 400,000 a year, "there is a good chance we would not have had to move from Cambridge."

Thomas W. Anninger, president of the Neighborhood 10 Association, which originally opposed having the library in Cambridge, said yesterday that the situation would have been "completely different" had the library been built on Brattle Street.

"You cannot say that if 400,000 people visit the library at Columbia Point, the same number would visit it in Cambridge," he said, adding, "The original estimate of 1.2 million may have been high, but it may still be accurate." Even a prediction of 400,000 would have caused his group concern at the time, finger said