The Vietnam War. Civil rights and women’s lib. MLK and RFK. Laugh-In and love-ins. From June 14 to September 2, 2013, the National Constitution Center presents The 1968 Exhibit, a multimedia, multi-generational focused exhibition that brings one of America’s most colorful, chaotic, culture-shifting years richly to life. Whether you remember the year personally or discovered Hendrix from iTunes, Planet of the Apes on Netflix, and Vietnam in text books, The 1968 Exhibit is an experience to be shared and discussed across generations.
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.”
A turning point for an entire generation coming of age and a nation engaged in war, 1968 was comprised of twelve months of memory-stamping events including 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, and much more. The year also featured memorable moments in pop culture history including movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” television shows like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” 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 included in the cost of general museum admission, which includes the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, the award-winning theatrical production Freedom Rising, and Signers’ Hall. General museum admission prices are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors ages 65 and over, and $8 for children ages 4-12. Active military personnel and children ages 3 and under are free. Group rates also are available. For ticket information, call 215.409.6700 or visit constitutioncenter.org.
CBS 3 and The CW Philly are the official media partners of the exhibition. CBS 3 (KYW-TV) and The CW Philly 57 (WPSG-TV) are part of CBS Television Stations, a division of CBS Corporation.
The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution. Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship through a state-of-the-art museum experience, including hundreds of interactive exhibits, films and rare artifacts; must-see feature exhibitions; the internationally acclaimed, 360-degree theatrical production Freedom Rising; and the iconic Signers’ Hall, where visitors can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. As America’s forum for constitutional dialogue, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates. The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the national hub for constitutional education, which offers cutting-edge civic learning resources both onsite and online. Freedom is calling. Celebrate it during the Center’s 10-year anniversary in 2013. For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.