About 1950s: Building the American Dream

Experience life in the 1950s by putting your feet up on the couch, playing a record, peeking in drawers, and rolling in the grass in a full-size prefabricated Lustron home built inside the museum at the Ohio History Center.

“This is an exhibit unlike any other. We want visitors to touch, feel, and try everything in the home so they can immerse themselves in an authentic 1950s experience,” said Sharon Dean, director of museum and library services for the Ohio History Connection.

Expect to see items like a 1957 Chevy Bellaire, an Airstream trailer, Roy Rogers toys and decorations, a bomb shelter hatch, 1950s television news and programs, and a combination clothes and dishwasher! Stop by at the right time and you may get to meet a Lustron salesperson on the front lawn, a doctor making a house call, or a mother making a cake in the kitchen.

Importantly, the exhibit is not all fun and games, but also offers an investigation of the 1950s that goes beneath the glossy, fun pop culture of the time period to examine the challenging and darker undercurrents of the decade. While our cultural memory “remembers” the 1950s as a time of poodle skirts, rock n’ roll, and ideal family roles, this exhibit will invite visitors to dig below the surface to see the lives of real people. Building the American Dream explores the complexity of the time and offers the opportunity to understand and reflect on some of the prevailing myths of the decade. 

With the Lustron home as the literal frame to experience the decade, the exhibit invites visitors to explore the complex social environment of a “real” nuclear family from Central Ohio living in a Lustron home during the 1950s: a father, mother, boy, and new baby girl. Through this family, visitors can encounter three themes that define the decade:

  • Family and Gender Roles: Traditional roles for men and women and fathers and mothers were redefined by the post-World War II boom and vastly different from previous and later generations.
  • Social and Political issues: From segregated housing to the Civil Rights movement to the Cold War to McCarthyism, the 1950s was anything but ideal for so many Americans.
  • Popular Culture: The popular music, literature, art, and design of the 1950s is undeniably alluring and retains devout followers 60+ years later.

The exhibit will be on display at the Ohio History Center until 2018.

Admission: $10/Adults, $9/Seniors, $5/Children 7-12, Free/Children 6 and under, Free/OHS Members.

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

Location: Ohio History Center is located at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43211. Click here for a map.

For questions, call 614-297-2300/800-686-6124 or visit www.ohiohistory.org/ohc.