Local Museums, Libraries Collaborate on '60s Flashback

Exhibit highlights include the Indiana Historical Society’s photos of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Indy.

We turn the page with ease on most decades, but we always seem to return to the 1960s. And why not? Societal change! The war! The moon landing! The music! Those clothes! But what of our modest city during those times? Five museums and archival sites will show us their take on the era beginning this month in a joint exhibition called “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The idea for the multi-location show came from Lisa Lobdell, archivist for The Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative. She had just finished exhibits on 1920s jazz and the music of World War II while, coincidentally, IUPUI had recently done an exhibit on WWII and the homefront, and the Indiana Historical Society had presented one on Prohibition. “I thought it was a shame we didn’t work together to deliver a broader message,” she says.

Lobdell sent an e-mail to archivists and librarians around the region, suggesting that collaboration had been a long time coming. Five of them saw the possibilities and settled on the 1960s as a topic. So on Jan. 6, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will begin its yearlong focus on civil rights and the role it played on Vonnegut’s writing and social conscience. The Indiana Historical Society plans to explore the role of civil rights in local history, using photographs and correspondence. The Ruth Lilly Archives at IUPUI will examine the rapid rise of activism—civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, anti-war—and technology. The Feinstein Initiative will show how social changes influenced Broadway musicals in a decade that began with Bye Bye Birdie and ended with Oh! Calcutta!. And in June, the Carmel Clay Historical Society plans to join in with an exploration of the growth of that area during the ’60s with the construction of Keystone Avenue and I-465, the desegregation of schools in Indy, and the white flight that ultimately led people to Carmel.

“We all approach the collecting of history in different ways,” says Eloise Batic, the Indiana Historical Society’s director of exhibits, research, and design. “But there are some commonalities that run between all of us. So this is an opportunity to take one story and interpret it through different lenses.”


This article appeared in the January 2014 issue.