May 17, 2022

Digital Preservation: “How the JFK Assassination Bullets Were Digitally Preserved at NIST”

From National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST):

In addition to many other items collected during the investigations that followed the assassination, the bullet and two bullet fragments that killed Kennedy and injured Texas Gov. John Connally are housed at the National Archives in a secure and climate-controlled environment. These items are closely controlled by NARA experts, as are a bullet that the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fired from the same rifle seven months earlier in his attempt to assassinate retired Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker and the two bullets that the FBI test-fired from Oswald’s rifle after the Kennedy assassination.

Researchers or investigators sometimes inquire about seeing the assassination bullets, but NARA officials rarely release them for physical examination. Instead, photographs of the bullets have been made available to researchers. However, the technology was now available for an improved means of dissemination and preservation: creating virtual copies of the bullets and bullet fragments. If the actual ballistic items were accurately measured in 3D, then the National Archives could release the virtual copies for examination without risk of damage to or loss of the originals.

NIST had the instrumentation and metrological expertise to produce such virtual copies — virtual copies that can be rotated on a computer screen and viewed from any angle, with detail down to the microscopic level that couldn’t be seen even if one were holding the actual bullets. But how were we to accomplish this, since it would be impossible to move our huge research microscopes to the National Archives to scan the bullets? The answer was to have NARA officials bring the artifacts to NIST and witness the measurements being carried out.

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Learn More: Kennedy Assassination Bullets Preserved in Digital Form (December 2019)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.