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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 — Developed by the Minnesota History Center in partnership with the Atlanta History Center, Chicago History Museum and Oakland Museum of California
The 1968 Exhibit: Historical Background

comedy tragedy Step Down Shot Down At the start of the 1960s, the United States was a superpower with
military strength and great economic prosperity. President John F.
Student revolutionaries did not bring an end to capitalism, nor did
they lead the masses to abandon material goods. But they did success-
Kennedy opened the decade by saying “It is a time for a new genera- fully call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Vietnam, gains were
tion of leadership to cope with new problems and new opportunities, made in the civil rights movement and women across the nation took
for there is a new world to be won.” control of their social and economic futures, increasing their presence
in the workforce by 50 percent during the 1960s. Fewer Americans
Indeed, during the 1960s students on campuses across the country lived in poverty, the elderly got better healthcare and America’s
took up the cause of creating a “new” and more just society. Highly workplace was more diverse and flexible. And towards the end of the
idealistic, they demanded desegregation, championed free speech and decade for the first time the United States landed a man on the moon.
protested the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. They challenged
views of material culture, supported new roles for women and Still, optimism was fading and in its place was a growing sense of
explored alternative views of sex and marriage. Searching for a new doubt, anger and fear. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy
identity, many dabbled in illicit drugs, created a new style of dress and were assassinated; American military power was challenged at home

Love Hate Front Line Home Front listened to new forms of music. and in the field; a growing tax burden created by expanding govern-
ment programs and a mounting war debt pushed the economy to the
After a landslide win in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson took up brink, while peaceful protests turned into violent displays of public
the call for social and economic justice, pushing through domes- disorder and rioting. The new youth slogan became “turn on, tune in,
tic programs including the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Voting and drop out.” Drug use was blamed for the deaths of Janis Joplin and
Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and the Office Jimi Hendrix. By the end of the 1960s women held nearly half the jobs
of Economic Opportunity. Prosperity meant the money was there to in the United States, but they earned only 60 percent as much as their
support these programs. Unemployment was low and salaries were male counterparts. And the manned space program was scaled back in
rising. Idealism was not just for students or counterculture groups, it favor of cheaper and more effective unmanned flights.
was embraced by people of all ages in public and private life.
Some argue the events of the 1960s fostered a culture of immoral-
But not every American took up the call for change. Many defended ity while creating a welfare state at the expense of an immense tax
the traditions of segregation and pushed for a limited role of govern- burden. Others say civil and political rights improved, social inequities
ment. A generation gap developed between parents who came of age were leveled and a renewed sense of American idealism was fostered.
Grace POWER LAW & ORDER HEAVEN & EARTH in the 1940s and 50s and the more experimental views of youth in the The debate is never more important than it is today. Those who lived
1960s. Some viewed long hair and bell bottoms as signs of anarchy through the 1960s are now in positions of leadership in American
while others saw explorations with drugs and sex as immoral. Critics government and society, and they are raising families and passing on
often labeled student protesters as self-indulgent and inexperienced. 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 helicopter while sounds of fighting on the front lines plays. A kiosk in
a dazzling montage of moving images from the year’s tumultuous this section highlights the increasing opposition to the war. Artifacts
events. 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, Lounge: 1968: The Moving Image
flown in Vietnam in 1968, has “landed.” This setting underscores the The overall feeling of the lounge is playful and colorful. Visitors settle
enormous disruptive invasion of the war in Vietnam — the “living- into bean-bag chairs to watch clips from the year’s top television
room war.” A television features news reports and footage about the shows —“Laugh-In,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy
war, particularly the escalating conflict of the Tet Offensive. Hour” and “Hawaii 5-0” — and movies — “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The
Graduate,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Bullitt.”
FEBRUARY: “We’re losing this war.” Highlights also include the year’s major televised sporting events —
On the opposite side of the helicopter, visitors encounter a media the Olympic Games, Super Bowl II and the World Series. Artifact cases
presentation featuring combat stories from war veterans, including are filled with lunchboxes, dolls, board games and sports memorabilia
celebrated novelist Tim O’Brien. Archival film is projected within the that evoke memories of the era’s pop culture icons.

These materials are available online at:

MARCH: “Clean For Gene” JUNE: “Death of Hope” AUGUST: “Welcome to Chicago” OCTOBER: “Power to the People”
Walking into this section, exhibit goers experience unrest on campuses Robert F. Kennedy and the affect of his assassination on the This major environment places the visitor in the center of the This section opens with the famous “Black Power” salute at the Mexico
and student activism, especially the “Clean for Gene” Democratic Party contest in 1968 is explored in this section. Visitors confrontations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. City Olympic Games, and focuses on several social movements fight-
movement in support of Eugene McCarthy during his come upon a collage of photographs taken from Kennedy’s funeral Visitors hear the angry shouts of protestors, view news footage of ing for inclusion and identity. Stories are drawn from the American
run for the Democratic Party nomination for president. train as it moved slowly from New York to Washington, D.C. Presi- convention speeches and riots, and see candidates speaking to a Indian Movement; women involved in the “Black Thursday” protest
Artifacts are incorporated into a dorm room setting. dential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey is also presented through a fragmented American public. Interviews from convention goers, at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh for the creation of an African
The sexual revolution is represented by stories from case of campaign memorabilia ranging from buttons to flyers to a protestors, reporters and the Chicago police help frame the story, and American studies department; and the Brown Berets, the radical group
Linda LeClair, the Barnard co-ed who made national mini-dress emblazoned with “HHH.” artifacts and images set the context. working for equal rights for Chicanos. Artifacts include a torch from
headlines when she was disciplined for living off-campus the 1968 Olympics, a Black Panther jacket, and personal items from
with her boyfriend. Lounge: Take a Music Trip SEPTEMBER: “Sisterhood is Powerful” protestors.
In this vibrant space, hundreds of original albums cover the wall, In September, visitors go to the 1968 Miss America pageant and
APRIL: “I have been to the mountaintop.” and shadowboxes contain artifacts like concert tickets, programs, witness protests by feminist activists on the Atlantic City board- NOVEMBER: “The Votes Are In”
The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and its impact on the posters, photos and autographs from musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. walk. An installation recreates the protest scene: a stuffed sheep with A curtained voting booth — used in the
American people is the centerpiece of this section. A media presenta- Visitors can test their knowledge of 1968 music by playing along prize ribbon and a “Freedom Trashcan,” filled with “instruments of 1968 elections — is set up for visitors.
tion unfolds in a small space suggesting the interior of an African- with an interactive music quiz projected on the lounge wall. Through torture”—high-heeled shoes, bras, girdles, hair curlers, false eyelashes, Levers are marked with the names of
American Church, much like the Masonic Temple where King deliv- a “make-your-own album cover” interactive, visitors can create typing books and copies of “Cosmopolitan,” “Playboy” and “Ladies the presidential candidates. Visitors
ered his “Mountaintop Speech” the day before his murder. That speech 1960s-inspired cover art and share their work both in the exhibit and Home Journal.” Images of women in media and advertising, and the learn about the candidates’ platforms,
along with oral history excerpts, film footage, radio broadcasts and with friends on Facebook. increasing role of women in the American workplace are explored. cast their votes and then compare their
music convey the impact of King’s assassination. preferences with how the country voted
JULY: “Love it or Leave it” Lounge: Wish Book in 1968 and how other visitors voted
MAY: “I Am Somebody” This section focuses on the rise of conservatism: the emergence of Entering this lounge, visitors encounter the world of consumer goods today. A monitor shows how the results
Visitors continue their journey through the year by turning to the George Wallace as a viable third-party candidate; Ronald Reagan as a including plastics— molded into furniture, stitched into clothing and compare with the results from other
Poor People’s Campaign and its “Resurrection City” on the National candidate for the Republican nomination; Richard Nixon’s campaign shaped into household goods — along with denim jeans, wood panel- museum stops on the exhibit tour.
Mall in Washington, D.C. Original artifacts include a pair of boots for “law and order;” and the growing power of conservative organiza- ing, shag carpeting and other trendy items. Like the popular annual
worn by the campaign’s leader, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Another tions in middle-class suburbs. Artifacts include campaign memora- Sears “Wish Book,” this area chronicles what Americans wore, how DECEMBER: “In The Beginning”
part of this section deals with the role of the campaign in fostering bilia from Wallace and from Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, among they furnished their homes, how they spent their leisure time and On entering the last area in the exhibit, visitors are confronted with
Mexican-American solidarity. others. A poster from the John Wayne film “The Green Berets”— what they purchased as they achieved their dreams. the same living room as in the January section — but instead of a
released on the 4th of July—draws attention to the backlash against helicopter there is a full-sized replica of the Apollo 8 Command
anti-war protests. 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

Exhibit Tour Dates

Brian Horrigan, Lead Exhibit Developer Dan Spock, Director, Minnesota History Center
Brian Horrigan joined the Minnesota Historical Society in 1990 and Dan Spock has worked in museums for more than 28 years and has held Minnesota History Center
since then has led the development of more than a dozen exhibits, numerous positions including exhibit designer, exhibit developer and Oct. 14, 2011–Feb. 20, 2012
many of which have earned national award recognition. Most recently, program administrator. At the Minnesota History Center he oversees
Horrigan was the lead developer of “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” exhibits, educational programs, visitor services and facilities management. Oakland Museum of California
which in 2009 was honored by the National Endowment for the Mar. 31, 2012–Aug. 19, 2012
Humanities with a prestigious “We the People” designation for promot- Over the past ten years as head of exhibitions, Spock has led a team in
ing knowledge and understanding of American history and culture. the production of major and small exhibitions, many of which have
Atlanta History Center
earned national award recognition. These exhibitions have appeared
As curator for the “The 1968 exhibit,” Horrigan is responsible for at the History Center as well as venues across the country. Spock is
Oct. 6, 2012–Feb. 24, 2013
developing thematic concepts, conducting oral history interviews, an ardent proponent of visitor-centered, experiential interpretive
securing loans for the exhibit and overseeing the exhibit’s comple- approaches that value visitors as active learners. He believes exhibits National Constitution Center,
tion. He has also been a contributing writer for the Society’s quarterly should explore informal uses of the past by the public as natural Philadelphia
periodical, “Minnesota History” magazine and has authored the blog avenues for generating active engagement with history. The exhibitions Mar. 23, 2013–Sep. 2, 2013
“Covering 1968” at since July of 2009. developed by Spock and his team have ranged from multidisciplinary,
high immersion, interactive and media rich approaches designed for a Chicago History Museum
general family audience, to intensive community-based collaborations, t.b.d.
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: Media Contact:

• History of the 1960s • National scope of exhibit Jessica Kohen,
• Design of the 1960s and partnering institutions:
Minnesota History Center
• Music of the 1960s Oakland, CA, Chicago
• Exhibit artifacts and Atlanta 651-259-3148
• Exhibit design & development
345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St. Paul, MN, 55102-1906 • ©2011 MHS