When the new exhibit 1950s: Building the American Dream opens at the Ohio History Center in Columbus on July 13, you can experience life in the 1950s firsthand -- put your feet up on the couch, play a record or peek in the drawers in a real two-bedroom Lustron home of the era.
Factory-made of porcelain-enameled steel, the Lustron house was introduced as an innovative solution to the nation’s housing shortage after World War II. Between 1948 and 1950, about 2600 of the houses were made in a factory on the east side of Columbus and shipped to buyers across the country, where they were assembled on-site.
“This is an exhibit unlike any other. We want visitors to touch, feel and try everything that’s in the home, immersing themselves in an authentic 1950s experience,” says Sharon Dean, director of museum and library services for the Ohio Historical Society.
Expect to see items like a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, an Airstream trailer, Roy Rogers toys and decorations, a bomb-shelter hatch, television news and programs of the era and an inventive combination clothes-and-dishwasher. Stop by at the right time and you may even meet a Lustron salesman on the lawn, dad relaxing in the living room or mom in the kitchen making a cake.
Uncover a Complex Era
Importantly, the exhibit offers a look at the 1950s that goes beyond the glossy, fun pop culture of the time to examine some challenging and darker undercurrents of the decade.
“While our collective memory recalls the 1950s as a time of poodle skirts, rock ‘n’ roll and idealized family roles, this exhibit invites visitors to dig below the surface to see the lives of real people,” Dean says. “1950s: Building the American Dream explores the complexity of the time and offers an opportunity to understand and reflect on some of the prevailing myths of the decade.”
Explore the Decade
By exploring the ranch-style home of a 1950s family of four plus its contents, you can examine three themes that define the decade.
• Family and Gender Roles: Discover how the post-war boom redefined the roles of men, women, fathers and mothers, and how they differed from those of earlier and later generations.
• Social and Political Issues: From segregated housing to the Civil Rights movement, to the Cold War to McCarthyism, see how the decade of the 1950s was anything but ideal for many Americans.
• Popular Culture: Explore the popular music, literature, art and design of the 1950s, which still has a following six decades later.
An Intergenerational Experience
With the exhibit’s opening day approaching, curator Cameron Wood reflects on what he hopes to see when the exhibit opens.
“I’d love to see three generations experience the exhibit together,” Wood says. “Imagine a grandfather explaining a rotary telephone to his grandson; a father who grew up in the ‘50s walking into a bedroom full of Roy Rogers toys; and a granddaughter asking her grandmother about TV in the 1950s. That would be amazing.”
Planning Your Visit
1950s: Building the American Dream opens at the Ohio History Center in Columbus on Saturday, July 13, 2013. The exhibit is free with Ohio History Center museum admission, which is $10/adult, $9/senior, $5/age 6-12 and Free/age 5 and under. Ohio Historical Society members (www.ohiohistory.org/membership) enjoy free admission to the Ohio History Center museum and 1950s: Building the American Dream. Museum hours are Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m. Questions? Call 800.686.6124 or visit www.ohiohistory.org.
1950s: Building the American Dream
Related Programs and Events
Thursday, July 11, 2013 • 7-10 p.m.
Preview Party: Swing into the 50s
Join us for a celebration of the new exhibit! Dance the night away to the sounds of Sinatra featuring the Brian Michael Smith Orchestra, enjoy ‘50s-themed appetizers and cocktails and experience a fully furnished Lustron pre-fab mid-century home. This remarkable exhibit and special event will transport you to the fantabulous 1950s. Fifties attire optional -- enter to win a prize for the best ‘50s costume and hairstyle! Tickets are $60 per person or $85 per couple -- call 800.686.1541 or visit www.ohiohistory.org/1950sParty. Proceeds support the exhibit 1950s: Building the American Dream and related educational programming during its five-year run. For more information, contact the Ohio Historical Society’s Office of Institutional Advancement at 800.647.6921. Be there or be square!
Saturday, July 13, 2013 • 8-11 a.m.
Members-Only Pancake Breakfast and Exhibit Tour
Ohio Historical Society members are invited to a fun ‘50s-style Pancake Breakfast and tour of the new exhibit 1950s: Building the American Dream on opening day, Saturday, July 13. Watch for your invitation and register for a seating time. Not a member? Join now: www.ohiohistory.org/membership.
Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, 2013
Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
Join us for special tours, crafts and other hands-on programs celebrating the opening of 1950s: Building the American Dream and enjoy the Ohio Made All-Ohio Art Festival in Ohio Village, featuring 1950s music. These programs are included free with Ohio History Center museum admission. Ohio Historical Society members (www.ohiohistory.org/membership) enjoy free admission.
Saturday, July 20, 2013 • 2 p.m.
1950s Recipes: Jell-O® Salad to Green Bean Casserole
The arrival of packaged, processed and frozen foods resulted in some strange concoctions, like lime Jell-O® with green olives, celery and tuna. Join Carla Zikursh for this presentation and share your favorite ‘50s recipes! This program is included free with Ohio History Center museum admission. Ohio Historical Society members (www.ohiohistory.org/membership) enjoy free admission.
Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21, 2013
Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
Enjoy special tours, crafts and hands-on programs that will bring the ‘50s to life for young and old. These programs are included free with Ohio History Center museum admission. Ohio Historical Society members (www.ohiohistory.org/membership) enjoy free admission.
Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 30, 2013 • Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
1950s Family Weekend: Housewarming Party and Backyard Cookout
This program is included free with Ohio History Center museum admission. Ohio Historical Society members (www.ohiohistory.org/membership) enjoy free admission.
Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013 • 7-10 p.m.
Have a blast with the past! Enjoy ‘50s-style music, drinks, dancing, food, fashions and contests. Come dressed in your coolest ‘50s attire -- awards will be presented for best dressed! $12/person includes one drink ticket; additional tickets available for purchase. Age 21 and over. Advance registration required. 800.686.1541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The exhibit 1950s: Building the American Dream is made possible in part by generous contributions from Conestoga, a fund-raising support group of the Ohio Historical Society; The Longaberger Foundation; the Ohio Humanities Council; the Greater Columbus Arts Council; the Gordon Chandler Memorial Fund of The Columbus Foundation; Columbus Truck & Equipment Inc.; Ronald J. Ungvarsky & Susan Tomasky; Rodney & Donna Wasserstrom; and an anonymous donor, with promotional support from the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Magazine and Oldies 93.3.