The 1968 Exhibit at National Constitution Center in Philadelphia
6/2/2013 10:58:00 AM
Where were you in 1968? The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia considers it an extraordinary year and has made an unforgettable exhibition all about that year. From June 14 to September 2, 2013, you can see this multi-media, multi-generational focused exhibition that brings one of America’s most colorful, chaotic, culture-shifting years richly to life.
What was happening that year that made it so special? The peak of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; riots at the Democratic National Convention, Black Power demonstrations at the Summer Olympics, feminist demonstrations at the Miss America pageant, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, television shows like Laugh-In, the opening of the musical Hair and the release of the Beatles’ The White Album.
“The year 1968 was a pivotal chapter in our nation’s history, as ‘We the People’ pushed the boundaries of the Constitution and our freedoms by exercising our right to free expression, protest, and petition in revolutionary ways,” says National Constitution Center Interim President and CEO Vince Stango. “The 1968 Exhibition does a good job balancing the highs and lows experienced by our nation during the year. It promises to be a nostalgic flashback for those who lived it and eye-opening for anyone who wasn’t yet alive to experience it firsthand.”
Organized by the months of the year, the 5,000-square-foot exhibition features over 100 artifacts, including:
- A reconstructed Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter used in the conflict in Vietnam
- A full-size replica of the Apollo 8 command module and the actual pressure bubble helmet used by James Lovell who served as the command module pilot for Apollo 8
- Funeral program for Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Chicago police riot helmet from the Democratic National Convention in Chicago
- Mattel Co.’s talking “Mrs. Beasley” doll from the television show “Family Affair”
- Sweater and sneakers worn by Fred Rogers in the television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”
The exhibition also features three immersive, interactive “lounges” focusing on movies, music, television and design from 1968.
- Visitors can settle into bean-bag chairs to watch TV clips from shows such as “Laugh-In,” “Gunsmoke” and “The Monkees” and films such as “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Funny Girl.” Highlights from the Olympic Games, Super Bowl II and the World Series also are shown on monitors.
- In the “Music Lounge,” original albums cover the wall and shadow boxes display concert tickets, programs, posters and autographs from musicians of the era. Visitors also can take a 1968 music quiz and make their own album covers that they can share on Facebook.
- In the “Style Lounge,” visitors can explore the world of consumer goods from 1968, including plastics—molded into furniture, stitched into clothing and shaped into household goods—along with denim jeans, wood paneling and shag carpeting.
The Center is creating a special “Community Lounge” section within the exhibition where visitors can share memories on subject matter including politics, the Vietnam War, pop culture, innovation, and civil rights. The lounge also will feature a special program titled Stories of ’68, where members of the public, local television and radio personalities, and other well-known Philadelphians will be invited to share their recollections of the extraordinary year with visitors in a discussion led by a member of the Center’s staff.
Also planned is an iPod tour narrated by Exhibition Curator Brian Horrigan of the Minnesota Historical Society. The Center is the first venue to develop an iPod tour for the exhibition. The tour will feature behind-the-scenes stories from Horrigan about the exhibition’s development, artifact acquisition, and further background on the history and events featured in the exhibition.
The Center’s education staff is developing ’60s-themed family-friendly programming around its popular Thursday $5 After 5 p.m. summer series (June 27 to August 29, 2013) as well as programming for the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 2013.
Save the date! Guests ages 21+ can get a sneak peek of the exhibition prior to its public opening during the “Retro-Rama” party on Thursday, June 13, 2013, which will feature ’60s-inspired décor, cocktails, and live music.
During the opening weekend of the exhibition, all visitors who were born in the year 1968 will receive FREE admission.
The 1968 Exhibit is organized by the Minnesota History Center in association with the Atlanta History Center, the Chicago History Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California, and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“As we were developing the exhibit and talking to people who experienced that year, the one word that came up over and over was ‘overwhelming,’” says Minnesota Historical Society Exhibit Curator Brian Horrigan. “People described being caught up in this seemingly endless cascade of shocking events, shaking the country—the world, really—to its very core.”
General admission to The 1968 Exhibit is $17.50 for adults, $16 for seniors and students, and $11 for children ages 4-12. Active military personnel and children ages 3 and under are free. Group rates also are available. Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, including the award-winning theatrical production Freedom Rising, is included. For ticket information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.