1950s: Building the American Dream Exhibit at Ohio History Center to Open July 13

Exhibit Features Ohio-Made Lustron Home; explores social, pop culture and gender issues of the time

(Columbus,OH)—On July 13, 2013 the Ohio History Connection (OHS) will unveil its new exhibit at the Ohio History Center: 1950s:Building the American Dream. It will feature a Lustron Home: a prefabricated, single family residence constructed of porcelain steel manufactured in Columbus, Ohio between 1947 and 1950.


A hands-on and interactive exhibit, Building the American Dreaminvites visitors to explore the social environment of a “real” nuclear family from Central Ohio living in a Lustron home during the 1950s.

Visitors can sit on the family’s couch, play a ‘50s record, examine the contents of drawers, and play in the grass in the full-size prefabricated Lustron home and yard built inside the museum. At different times during the exhibit, visitors may encounter actors playing the roles of a Lustron salesperson, a doctor making house calls, or a mother making a cake in the kitchen.

“This is a historical exhibition 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 OHS.

OHS has built this exhibit as an examination of the 1950s that goes beneath the glossy, fun pop culture of the time period, pointing to the challenging and darker undercurrents of the decade. While most think of the 1950s as a time of poodle skirts, rock n’ roll, and ideal family roles, 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, including: 

  • 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 many Americans.
  • Popular Culture: The popular music, literature, art, and design of the 1950s are undeniably alluring and indelible, and retain devout followers 60+ years later.

“This decade was defining for American culture in so many ways,” said Dean. “We hope that, through the impressive visual of the Lustron Home, visitors can experience not only the living arrangements

and accoutrements of a family in this time period, but also the post-war setting that resulted in the cultural explosion and societal struggles that America underwent throughout the50s and into the 60s.”

The Lustron home and exhibit area will also feature many iconic ‘50s items,including 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 anddishwasher.

1950s: Building the American Dream is made possible in part by generous contributions from Conestoga, a fund-raising support group of the Ohio History Connection;The Longaberger Foundation; the Ohio Humanities Council; the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the City of Columbus; the Gordon Chandler Memorial Fund of theColumbus Foundation; Columbus Truck & Equipment, Inc.; Ronald J. Ungvarsky & Susan Tomasky; and an anonymous donor, with promotional support from the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Magazine, and Oldies 93.3.     

The exhibit will be on display at the Ohio History Center for five years. Admission to 1950s: Building the American Dream is free with admission to the Ohio History Center. Admission: $10/Adults, $9/Seniors, $5/Children 6-12, Free/Children 5 and under, Free/OHS Members. For questions, call 614-297-2300/800-686-6124. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.;Sunday, noon-5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, visit www.ohiohistory.org/1950s.

About the Lustron Company

Lustron was one of multiple companies experimenting with prefabricated home designs and non-traditional building materials to meet the high demand for residential housing after World War II. Learn more about Lustrons at www.lustronpreservation.org.


About the Ohio History Connection

Founded in 1885, the non-profit Ohio History Connection (https://www.ohiohistory.org)provides a wide array of statewide services and programs related to collecting,preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology and natural history through its 58 sites and museums across Ohio, including its flagship museum,the Ohio History Center in Columbus. For information regarding the Society,contact Shannon Thomas, Communications Specialist, Ohio History Connection: 614.297.2317, [email protected].


Posted August 20, 2013

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