Blast from the Past

Vince Stango, in­ter­im pres­id­ent and CEO of the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, de­scribed the year 1968 as “col­or­ful, chaot­ic and cul­ture shift­ing.”

Soon, the cen­ter will give vis­it­ors a closer look at that tu­mul­tu­ous year when it presents The 1968 Ex­hib­it, which runs from June 14 to Sept. 2.

“The ex­hib­it will rock you,” Stango said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence em­ceed by CBS 3/CW Philly news an­chor Erika von Tiehl.

Mu­sic was a big part of 1968, and School of Rock Phil­adelphia per­formed for the crowd at the March 19 an­nounce­ment.

“I think this ex­hib­it will be truly amaz­ing,” said sing­er Nat­alie Chap­kis, just be­fore belt­ing out a rendi­tion of Janis Joplin’s 1968 hit, Piece of My Heart.

The folks at the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, at 525 Arch St., be­lieve that flower chil­dren will find the ex­hib­it groovy.

At the same time, they think that people from young­er gen­er­a­tions, who might have dis­covered Jimi Hendrix’s mu­sic on­line, will en­joy the ex­per­i­ence.

In 1968, NBC began air­ing the series Laugh-In. Wal­ter Cronkite used a na­tion­ally tele­vised news spe­cial on CBS to cri­ti­cize the Vi­et­nam War. Pres­id­ent Lyn­don John­son an­nounced he wouldn’t seek an­oth­er term. Mar­tin Luth­er King and Robert Kennedy were as­sas­sin­ated. Richard Nix­on de­feated Hubert Humphrey and George Wal­lace for the pres­id­ency.

Protests were every­where. Blacks ri­oted after King’s killing. War pro­test­ers and po­lice clashed out­side the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion in Chica­go. Draft cards were burned on col­lege cam­puses. Even wo­men’s-lib­bers threw bras in­to a trash­can to protest the Miss Amer­ica Pa­geant in At­lantic City.

The 5,000-square-foot ex­hib­it will be or­gan­ized by the months of the year. There are more than 100 ar­ti­facts.

The ex­hib­it will fea­ture a re­con­struc­ted heli­copter used by the U.S. Army in Vi­et­nam from 1967-70. Oth­er high­lights in­clude an Army battle hel­met, a Chica­go po­lice ri­ot hel­met, King’s fu­ner­al pro­gram, polit­ic­al pins, a talk­ing doll from the tele­vi­sion pro­gram Fam­ily Af­fair, a hel­met used by Apollo 8 as­tro­naut James Lov­ell and a sweat­er and sneak­ers worn by Mis­ter Ro­gers on his TV show.

Vis­it­ors will be able to watch clips of TV shows and movies and high­lights of the Olympics, Su­per Bowl II and the World Series.

A mu­sic lounge will in­clude ori­gin­al al­bum cov­ers, con­cert tick­ets, pro­grams, posters, auto­graphs and a quiz.

“The 1968 ex­hib­i­tion does a good job bal­an­cing the highs and lows ex­per­i­enced by our na­tion dur­ing the year,” Stango said.

The ex­hib­it will re­main at the Heinz His­tory Cen­ter in Pitt­s­burgh through May 12.

Dur­ing the open­ing week­end of its ar­rival in Phil­adelphia, any­one born in 1968 will re­ceive free ad­mis­sion. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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