“1968 was one of the most important, turbulent years in American history,” says History Colorado Center (HCC) assistant state historian B. Erin Cole, “and we’re still dealing with the effects today.” Whether you’re just a fan of the decade’s colorful fashion or you’re a history buff intrigued by the circustmances surrounding the Vietnam War or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, there’s no denying that 1968 was chock-full of significant moments. Explore many of them in The 1968 Exhibit, on view at the HCC through May 10. Designed as a visually stimulating, interactive, month-by-month exploration of that historic year, the traveling exhibit offers something for all ages. Instead of giving away all its surprises, here’s a preview of some of the most fascinating sections:
- Social changes: In spring 1968, Barnard College student Linda LeClair was disciplined for living off-campus with her boyfriend. The ordeal set off conversations about social freedom and sexuality, and, perhaps most importantly, jumpstarted a new dialogue about women’s rights. Learn about “The LeClair Affair” and other gender equality issues throughout the exhibit.
- Civil rights: A seven-minute video offers context into the events preceding MLK’s assassination, as well as looks at his funeral and its aftermath. (Located nearby is an exploration of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination—just two months later—which includes a series of photographs taken from his funeral train.)
- Politics: 1968 saw a resurgence in the conservative movement with the election of Richard Nixon. Politics infuse the whole exhibit, which looks at different candidates, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and more. Toward the end, visitors can vote for the candidate of their choice—and see who others picked—on an old voting machine.
- Vietnam War: According to Cole, ’68 was a sort-of turning point in Americans’ opinions of the war, with more people opposing U.S. involvement than supporting it. A model Huey helicopter was rebuilt by veterans within the exhibit space. It doubles as a multimedia piece: Visitors can push buttons to hear the oral histories of vets and others involved in the war.
- Pop culture: Test your knowledge of 1968 tunes in an interactive music lounge, scan collections of consumer and fashion items (bright orange house phones and shift dresses, among them), and catch episodes of TV shows such as Bonanza—all from the comfort of a beanbag chair.
- The Colorado Connection: In conjunction with 1968, HCC put together an adjacent exhibit focused entirely on the Chicano civil rights movement in the Centennial State in the 1960s and 1970s. El Movimiento—the first fully bilingual exhibit HCC has done—contains five sections: labor rights, land rights in the San Luis Valley, student movements, the Vietnam War, and the commencement of the Crusade for Justice. (Museo de las Americas is running a companion exhibit, Chicano, through May 29.) A timeline in the hallway also displays significant events that occurred in Colorado that year, including the Denver Police raid of the local Black Panthers headquarters, the start of Eisenhower Tunnel construction, and Led Zeppelin playing its first U.S. show in downtown Denver.