The 1950s. The decade still forms the backdrop of what we consider “traditional” America, as families began to move to the suburbs and pursue “the American Dream.”
Of course, nothing is ever exactly as it seemed, and the Ohio Historical Society’s brand-new exhibition, “1950s: Building the American Dream,” takes a look at all the forces that defined the decade, from the transition out of World War II through the transition into the more turbulent 1960s, to new developments in technology and how those developments affected work and leisure time and the lives of all Americans, specifically Ohioans.
At the center of the exhibition is a full-size Lustron home, an all-steel pre-fabricated home built by the short-lived Columbus-based company. The exhibit team has fully furnished the house - living room, dining area, kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom. There is even a yard with lawn furniture and gear for outdoor play.
It was the acquisition of the home by the OHS, Manager of Curatorial Services and exhibit team Jason Crabill said, that served as the impetus for the creation of the exhibit.
“”We’ve actually been looking for a Lustron home for a long time,” he said.
This one was donated to the OHS, an offer Crabill said was “almost too good to be true.”
“We knew what Lustron represented, that period after World War II, a time of social change. So while there may be some appeal to designers and engineers, the home, and the exhibit is really geared toward intergenerational families.”
“We hope to see people talking, sharing memories and ideas, sitting in the living room, interacting with the exhibit and with each other,” Megan Wood, Manager of Visitor Experience and exhibit team member, said.
“This was also a time of ‘duck and cover,’ the space race, the dawn of television, polio and the Korean War,” she added.
Beyond the Lustron home, the exhibit includes hands-on activities, period items and audio and video interviews with Ohioans who lived during the 50s, including John Glenn, former state senator Richard Schafrath and former Columbus mayor Greg Lashutka.
The exhibit’s grand opening is set for Saturday, July 13. A number of special events tied to the opening are planned in the coming days. Visit ohiohistory.org for details.
“1950s: Building the American Dream” will be on exhibit at the Ohio History Center at I-71 and 17th Avenue for at least five years.