Above, a typical teenage girl’s bedroom of the late 1960s. Photo courtesy of the Long Island Museum
By Ellen Barcel
Back in 1964-1965 some very excited New Yorkers (as well as visitors from all over the world) attended the World’s Fair held in Queens. The last time a world’s fair was held in New York was 1939!
The 1960s was a time of the Beatles. It was the time of John Denver and other folk musicians. It was a time when the Vietnam War was escalating, a time of protest and peace marches. “Make Love Not War” and “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” were just some of the slogans commonly heard. It was a time of the early growth of Stony Brook University, founded in 1957 in Oyster Bay and moved to the Stony Brook campus in 1962 on land donated by local philanthropist Ward Melville.
It was also a time when Long Island was growing by leaps and bounds. Housing developments were springing up everywhere, taking over former farmland. While the housing boom of the 1950s was felt in Nassau County, Suffolk’s boom took place in the 1960s.
The Long Island Museum’s new exhibit, Long Island in the Sixties, explores this decade of growth through clothing, photographs and other items of popular culture. A large time line goes throughout the exhibit noting the events of the decade.
Exhibit curator and Director of Collections and Interpretation Joshua Ruff said, “There are five video installations, several of which play music, most notably a film of the famous Beatles concert…”
Said Julie Diamond, museum director of communications, “One thing that struck me [in the exhibit] was a video of the Beatles playing at Shea Stadium. I was imagining myself being there, with all those girls screaming.” One section of the exhibit focuses on clothing: the mod style of the ‘60s “and another more elegant, dressy section. All of the clothing is from our collection,” Diamond said. Pieces were donated to the museum over the years. “It gives us a chance to bring out clothing which we don’t often see.”
Ruff added that there are several vignettes, including “a stylish modernist Hamptons living room, filled with great contemporary furnishings and art … and a middle-class suburban living room with a wildly patterned couch [and] a 1965 Zenith color television set (the dawn of color TV).” The teenage girl’s bedroom, “includes a lot of pop culture artifacts (the Monkees, Beatles, a big record album collection, and all the types of objects you’d see in such a room in the late ‘60s).” There’s a section on that World’s Fair, President John F. Kennedy’s campaign on the Island and information on Grumman’s role in the 1960s.
Ruff noted, “We decided to do the ‘60s exhibition as an outgrowth of the success of a very popular Long Island in the 1950s exhibition that we did in 2012. In the last few years, we have also had a good number of significant donations of 1960s era art and artifacts which we wanted to find a way of showcasing.”
Ruff added that the exhibit includes some really notable artifacts, “the phone that John F. Kennedy used to call Robert Moses to get him to begin building the New York World’s Fair; parts from a lunar modular (antenna mount, strut, micro-shield, copper cables); and terrific dresses from famous designers including Emilio Pucci, Rudy Gernreich and Gino Charles.”
Also at the museum is a second exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience curated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The two exhibits relate, “I think beautifully! There is a lot of content (Woodstock, Altamont, Newport Jazz Festival) in Common Ground that is based in the 1960s … It was important for us to think of these two exhibitions as tied from the very beginning, and we chose to schedule them in this way intentionally,” said Ruff. Common Ground runs through Sept. 5.
This wonderful trip down memory lane will be at the Long Island Museum through Dec. 31. The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Call 631-751-0066 or go to www.longislandmuseum.org for further information. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.