The 1968 Exhibit — Developed by the Minnesota History Center in partnership with the Atlanta History Center, Chicago

History Museum and Oakland Museum of California

The 1968 exhibiT: An extraordinary year. An unforgettable exhibit.

There has never been anoTher year like iT, before or since. iT began wiTh one of The vieTnam war’s bloodiesT baTTles and never leT up. mlk and rfk. urban rioTs and college siT-ins. an olympic year and an elecTion year. women’s lib and black power. sTir iT all TogeTher, mix in a loT of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, and you geT 1968. a relenTless year of culTure-shifTing, life-changing, memory-sTamping evenTs. all of iT vividly deTailed like never before by Television’s advancing influence. inescapable. incomparable. unforgeTTable. 1968.













The 1968 exhibiT: historical background

At the start of the 1960s, the United States was a superpower with military strength and great economic prosperity. President John F. Kennedy opened the decade by saying “It is a time for a new generation of leadership to cope with new problems and new opportunities, for there is a new world to be won.” Indeed, during the 1960s students on campuses across the country took up the cause of creating a “new” and more just society. Highly idealistic, they demanded desegregation, championed free speech and protested the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. They challenged views of material culture, supported new roles for women and explored alternative views of sex and marriage. Searching for a new identity, many dabbled in illicit drugs, created a new style of dress and listened to new forms of music. After a landslide win in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson took up the call for social and economic justice, pushing through domestic programs including the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and the Office of Economic Opportunity. Prosperity meant the money was there to support these programs. Unemployment was low and salaries were rising. Idealism was not just for students or counterculture groups, it was embraced by people of all ages in public and private life. But not every American took up the call for change. Many defended the traditions of segregation and pushed for a limited role of government. A generation gap developed between parents who came of age in the 1940s and 50s and the more experimental views of youth in the 1960s. Some viewed long hair and bell bottoms as signs of anarchy while others saw explorations with drugs and sex as immoral. Critics often labeled student protesters as self-indulgent and inexperienced.

Student revolutionaries did not bring an end to capitalism, nor did they lead the masses to abandon material goods. But they did successfully call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Vietnam, gains were made in the civil rights movement and women across the nation took control of their social and economic futures, increasing their presence in the workforce by 50 percent during the 1960s. Fewer Americans lived in poverty, the elderly got better healthcare and America’s workplace was more diverse and flexible. And towards the end of the decade for the first time the United States landed a man on the moon. Still, optimism was fading and in its place was a growing sense of doubt, anger and fear. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated; American military power was challenged at home and in the field; a growing tax burden created by expanding government programs and a mounting war debt pushed the economy to the brink, while peaceful protests turned into violent displays of public disorder and rioting. The new youth slogan became “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Drug use was blamed for the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. By the end of the 1960s women held nearly half the jobs in the United States, but they earned only 60 percent as much as their male counterparts. And the manned space program was scaled back in favor of cheaper and more effective unmanned flights. Some argue the events of the 1960s fostered a culture of immorality while creating a welfare state at the expense of an immense tax burden. Others say civil and political rights improved, social inequities were leveled and a renewed sense of American idealism was fostered. The debate is never more important than it is today. Those who lived through the 1960s are now in positions of leadership in American government and society, and they are raising families and passing on their beliefs to a new generation.

The 1968 exhibiT: Walkthrough
A National Traveling Exhibit, Premiering Oct. 14, 2011 at the Minnesota History Center

“The 1968 Exhibit” has 12 sections, corresponding to the months of the year, and three interactive “lounges” focusing on movies, music, television and design. Throughout the exhibit, visitors experience the sights and sounds of this media-saturated age, and hear stories from people who were a part of these transformative times. As visitors explore the gallery, they will be able to use mobile devices to access a web site featuring a calendar of events with film footage and oral history excerpts. The interface will allow visitors to share links and make comments via social networking sites. A kiosk in the gallery will allow access to the same content.

inTroducTory area:
In a huge title panel, the cutout numbers of “1968” are filled with a dazzling montage of moving images from the year’s tumultuous events. helicopter while sounds of fighting on the front lines plays. A kiosk in this section highlights the increasing opposition to the war. Artifacts include anti-war buttons and handbills, draft cards and induction letters, and the personal effects of a soldier killed in action.

January: “The living room war”
Visitors find themselves in a living room where a Huey helicopter, flown in Vietnam in 1968, has “landed.” This setting underscores the enormous disruptive invasion of the war in Vietnam—the “livingroom war.” A television features news reports and footage about the war, particularly the escalating conflict of the Tet Offensive.

lounge: 1968: The moving image
The overall feeling of the lounge is playful and colorful. Visitors settle into bean-bag chairs to watch clips from the year’s top television shows—“Laugh-In,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour” and “Hawaii 5-0”—and movies—“Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Bullitt.” Highlights also include the year’s major televised sporting events— the Olympic Games, Super Bowl II and the World Series. Artifact cases are filled with lunchboxes, dolls, board games and sports memorabilia that evoke memories of the era’s pop culture icons.

february: “we’re losing this war.”
On the opposite side of the helicopter, visitors encounter a media presentation featuring combat stories from war veterans, including celebrated novelist Tim O’Brien. Archival film is projected within the

These materials are available online at:

march: “clean for gene”
Walking into this section, exhibit goers experience unrest on campuses and student activism, especially the “Clean for Gene” movement in support of Eugene McCarthy during his run for the Democratic Party nomination for president. Artifacts are incorporated into a dorm room setting. The sexual revolution is represented by stories from Linda LeClair, the Barnard co-ed who made national headlines when she was disciplined for living off-campus with her boyfriend.

June: “death of hope”
Robert F. Kennedy and the affect of his assassination on the Democratic Party contest in 1968 is explored in this section. Visitors come upon a collage of photographs taken from Kennedy’s funeral train as it moved slowly from New York to Washington, D.C. Presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey is also presented through a case of campaign memorabilia ranging from buttons to flyers to a mini-dress emblazoned with “HHH.”

lounge: Take a music Trip
In this vibrant space, hundreds of original albums cover the wall, and shadowboxes contain artifacts like concert tickets, programs, posters, photos and autographs from musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. Visitors can test their knowledge of 1968 music by playing along with an interactive music quiz projected on the lounge wall. Through a “make-your-own album cover” interactive, visitors can create 1960s-inspired cover art and share their work both in the exhibit and with friends on Facebook.

april: “i have been to the mountaintop.”
The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and its impact on the American people is the centerpiece of this section. A media presentation unfolds in a small space suggesting the interior of an AfricanAmerican Church, much like the Masonic Temple where King delivered his “Mountaintop Speech” the day before his murder. That speech along with oral history excerpts, film footage, radio broadcasts and music convey the impact of King’s assassination.

July: “love it or leave it” may: “i am somebody”
Visitors continue their journey through the year by turning to the Poor People’s Campaign and its “Resurrection City” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Original artifacts include a pair of boots worn by the campaign’s leader, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Another part of this section deals with the role of the campaign in fostering Mexican-American solidarity. This section focuses on the rise of conservatism: the emergence of George Wallace as a viable third-party candidate; Ronald Reagan as a candidate for the Republican nomination; Richard Nixon’s campaign for “law and order;” and the growing power of conservative organizations in middle-class suburbs. Artifacts include campaign memorabilia from Wallace and from Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, among others. A poster from the John Wayne film “The Green Berets”— released on the 4th of July—draws attention to the backlash against anti-war protests.

augusT: “welcome to chicago”
This major environment places the visitor in the center of the confrontations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Visitors hear the angry shouts of protestors, view news footage of convention speeches and riots, and see candidates speaking to a fragmented American public. Interviews from convention goers, protestors, reporters and the Chicago police help frame the story, and artifacts and images set the context.

ocTober: “power to the people”
This section opens with the famous “Black Power” salute at the Mexico City Olympic Games, and focuses on several social movements fighting for inclusion and identity. Stories are drawn from the American Indian Movement; women involved in the “Black Thursday” protest at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh for the creation of an African American studies department; and the Brown Berets, the radical group working for equal rights for Chicanos. Artifacts include a torch from the 1968 Olympics, a Black Panther jacket, and personal items from protestors.

sepTember: “sisterhood is powerful”
In September, visitors go to the 1968 Miss America pageant and witness protests by feminist activists on the Atlantic City boardwalk. An installation recreates the protest scene: a stuffed sheep with prize ribbon and a “Freedom Trashcan,” filled with “instruments of torture”—high-heeled shoes, bras, girdles, hair curlers, false eyelashes, typing books and copies of “Cosmopolitan,” “Playboy” and “Ladies Home Journal.” Images of women in media and advertising, and the increasing role of women in the American workplace are explored.

november: “The votes are in”
A curtained voting booth—used in the 1968 elections—is set up for visitors. Levers are marked with the names of the presidential candidates. Visitors learn about the candidates’ platforms, cast their votes and then compare their preferences with how the country voted in 1968 and how other visitors voted today. A monitor shows how the results compare with the results from other museum stops on the exhibit tour.

lounge: wish book
Entering this lounge, visitors encounter the world of consumer goods including plastics — molded into furniture, stitched into clothing and shaped into household goods — along with denim jeans, wood paneling, shag carpeting and other trendy items. Like the popular annual Sears “Wish Book,” this area chronicles what Americans wore, how they furnished their homes, how they spent their leisure time and what they purchased as they achieved their dreams.

december: “in The beginning”
On entering the last area in the exhibit, visitors are confronted with the same living room as in the January section—but instead of a helicopter there is a full-sized replica of the Apollo 8 Command Module. On a television, news reports of the launch and mission unfold while the living room wall displays the image of the “Earthrise” accompanied by the crew’s reading from the Book of Genesis. Artifacts from the mission are on display.

For a calendar of the year’s events, go to:

The 1968 exhibiT: Spokespeople

brian horrigan, lead exhibit developer
Brian Horrigan joined the Minnesota Historical Society in 1990 and since then has led the development of more than a dozen exhibits, many of which have earned national award recognition. Most recently, Horrigan was the lead developer of “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” which in 2009 was honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities with a prestigious “We the People” designation for promoting knowledge and understanding of American history and culture. As curator for the “The 1968 exhibit,” Horrigan is responsible for developing thematic concepts, conducting oral history interviews, securing loans for the exhibit and overseeing the exhibit’s completion. He has also been a contributing writer for the Society’s quarterly periodical, “Minnesota History” magazine and has authored the blog “Covering 1968” at since July of 2009.

dan spock, director, minnesota history center
Dan Spock has worked in museums for more than 28 years and has held numerous positions including exhibit designer, exhibit developer and program administrator. At the Minnesota History Center he oversees exhibits, educational programs, visitor services and facilities management. Over the past ten years as head of exhibitions, Spock has led a team in the production of major and small exhibitions, many of which have earned national award recognition. These exhibitions have appeared at the History Center as well as venues across the country. Spock is an ardent proponent of visitor-centered, experiential interpretive approaches that value visitors as active learners. He believes exhibits should explore informal uses of the past by the public as natural avenues for generating active engagement with history. The exhibitions developed by Spock and his team have ranged from multidisciplinary, high immersion, interactive and media rich approaches designed for a general family audience, to intensive community-based collaborations, to site specific interpretive centers and trails, to more traditional art or photography shows. More recently, Spock has led the development of traveling exhibitions of national and international scope.

inTerview subJecT areas:
• History of the 1960s • Design of the 1960s • Music of the 1960s • Exhibit artifacts • Exhibit design & development • National scope of exhibit and partnering institutions: Oakland, CA, Chicago and Atlanta

exhibit Tour Dates
Minnesota History Center Oct. 14, 2011–Feb. 20, 2012 Oakland Museum of California Mar. 31, 2012–Aug. 19, 2012 Atlanta History Center Oct. 6, 2012–Feb. 24, 2013 National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Mar. 23, 2013–Sep. 2, 2013 Chicago History Museum t.b.d.

Media Contact:
Jessica Kohen, Minnesota History Center 651-259-3148

345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St. Paul, MN, 55102-1906 •

©2011 mhs

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