The 1968 Exhibit was created by the Minnesota History Center in conjunction with the Atlanta History Center, the Chicago History Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California. The exhibit came back to the Minnesota History Center on December 23rd, 2017 after a five-year national tour, which was well received and acclaimed, to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of 1968. It will run until January 21st, 2019.
The year 1968 was a very complex year. As the exhibit website writes, “It’s been 50 years since 1968: The Vietnam War, protests, assassinations. Peace signs, love-ins, psychedelic rock. From the darkest hours to the incredible highs, see the year come alive in this mind-blowing exhibit.” This exhibit strives to capture the complicated year that was 1968, the highs and the lows. With its different pieces, the exhibit comes to live, and helps visitors engage with the material.
(Promotional video for the exhibit posted on the YouTube channel of the Minnesota History Center)
The exhibit stays true to its name, capturing the entirety of the year 1968. Going in chronological order through the year, the museum begins with Bell UHI “Huey” helicopter, and ends with a full-size model of the Apollo 8. In between this, visitors can find presentations on the death of Martin Luther King Jr., information on the 1968 Olympics (and the torch from them), presidential campaign artifacts, and vintage fashion items. The museum captures the joyous moments of 1968, including the music and up and coming culture, and the lower points such as the Vietnam war and issues surrounding that, as well as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It really makes an effort at helping visitors understand the complexity of this year. This was a year of many highs and many lows. It was a very tumultuous time, and one that sticks out in the memory of those who lived it.
In addition to the standing exhibit, the understanding of 1968 for visitors is broadened by the addition of other events which provide history for the year 1968, and everything going on during the time. Film screenings of a documentary about the Black Panther Party, or protests, help provide a deeper understanding of certain events in 1968 which can’t be completely understood through one part of a larger exhibit. In this way, the Minnesota History Center collects other forms of memory as a way of filling gaps in what might be lost in their own exhibit. Also, with events like a West Bank Walking Tour, the city brings in its own history into the narrative, helping to remove the partiality of the memory, and making it more particular.
The memory presented here is very comprehensive, and yet it is still very partial. As Barbie Zelizer writes in Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies, “No single memory contains all that we know, or could know, about any given event, personality, or issue. Rather, memories are often pieced together like a mosaic.” Even though this museum captures many of the events of 1968, it will never be able to fully capture every event or experience of the year. The museum, even in its structure, looks like a mosaic. The museum is many pieces, put together to tell a story, but this story is partial, even though it is thorough. No amount of thoroughness can completely capture memory. In being so comprehensive as well, it is likely that a lot of detail is lost in the many individual events described. When trying to create a memory of more than one event, experience, person, etc., completeness of the story can be lost (not that it could ever be totally complete). Memory is again partial here because even if something is remembered, that does not mean that it is remembered completely.
In the way that the museum is made up primarily of artifacts, and other pieces of more physical memory, this form of memory is material. As Barbie Zelizer writes also in Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies, “Memory exists in the world rather than in a person’s head, and so it is embodied in different cultural forms.” Memory in this exhibit is material so that visitors can interact with it, and by doing so begin to understand the culture it represents. To the same effect, memory becomes social in this context as a way of helping people to understand culture. Whether it be through designing an album cover, or sharing an Instagram, the exhibit invites visitors to engage more with the material they are being presented with, and to share it.
- Zelizer, Barbie. “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communications (June 1995): 214-39.
- The 1968 Exhibit. The Minnesota History Center, n.d. http://www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/exhibits/1968.
- Berdan, Kathy. “It’s 1968 Again at the Minnesota History Center.” Pioneer Press, December 22, 2017. https://www.twincities.com/2017/12/22/1968-exhibit-minnesota-history-center/.
- Minnesota History Center. “The 1968 Exhibit.” YouTube, November 21, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=blxmgffEhlM.
- Minnesota History Historical Society. “The 1968 Exhibit.” Minnesota Historical Society, n.d. http://www.mnhs.org/media/kits/1968-exhibit.
- PhillyPRGirl. “1968 Exhibit Now at the National Constitution Center.” PhillyPRGirl. http://phillyprgirl.com/2013/06/26/national-constitution-center-196/.