Kent State University Museum Explores the Fashion Divide of the 1960s and '70s With 'Culture/Counterculture'
Almost 50 years ago, the shootings of Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard brought to a head the cultural divides that had split the nation. The Kent State University Museum’s exhibition, “Culture/Counterculture: Fashions of the 1960s and ’70s,” opening Sept. 20, explores the sharp contrast between supporters of the establishment and those opposed.
“Culture/Counterculture,” which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Kent State’s shootings on May 4, 1970, focuses on the generational gap during that time. The exhibition draws from the rich holdings of the university’s historic costume collection, private and institutional lenders including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as archival material from the Kent State University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives in its May 4 Collection. The exhibition will run through Sept. 6, 2020.
The exhibit contrasts high-end fashion of the establishment and pieces worn by celebrities including Dinah Shore and Miss America Bess Myerson against the variety of youth styles, including DIY designs, globally inspired looks and pieces that pushed the traditional distinction between men and womenswear. Garments worn by entertainers and style icons Diana Ross and Jimi Hendrix are also highlighted in the exhibit.
“The museum’s collection is very strong in dresses owned by socialites and celebrities of the 1960s and ’70s, particularly because the founders Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman were important figures in the New York fashion industry during that period,” said Sara Hume, Ph.D., Kent State University Museum curator. “We have supplemented the museum’s holdings with pieces borrowed from people in the community as well as other institutions, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Ohio History Connection, in order to show the real diversity of dress.”
Many styles that are still worn today have roots in the counterculture of the 1960s. The museum hopes that the exhibit will appeal to patrons of all ages. Many of the tensions of that period focused on questions of race, gender identity and military involvement – all of which are still relevant today.
“For visitors who remember the 1960s and ’70s, this show should bring back memories,” Hume said. “For those too young to have lived through it, the show should expand some of the stereotypical ideas about the period.”
There will be a special opening reception on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 5-8 p.m. in the Rockwell Hall Atrium and Museum. Attendees will have the opportunity to preview the exhibit before it opens to the general public. Light snacks and refreshments will be served, and all of the museum’s current exhibits will be open for viewing. Remarks will begin at 6 p.m. This event is free to attend. RSVP to www.kent.edu/KSUMuseumRSVP.
The museum is holding a special lecture-discussion as part of their “Fashion Focus” series on Friday, Dec. 6, from 2-3 p.m. in its Murphy Auditorium. “Fashion Focus: The Divisions and Confluences of Culture and Counterculture” will feature a discussion led by Hume on the contrasts between establishment fashion and counterculture styles and the societal, cultural, economic and political influences that each side shared. This event is free for museum members and Kent State students, faculty and staff, or included with the price of general admission.
Also coinciding with the 50th anniversary of May 4 is the “Wearing Justice: Perspectives From KSU Fashion School Faculty and Students” exhibition currently on display. “Wearing Justice” uses student- and faculty-made designs and fashion to create a dialogue about social justice, political discourse, conflict resolution, war and peace. The exhibit features designs that directly address the reverberations of May 4, while others focus on today’s global concerns from gun violence to climate change to corporate greed.
For more information about the 50th Commemoration of May 4, visit www.kent.edu/may4kentstate50.
About the Kent State University Museum
The Kent State University Museum is located at 515 Hilltop Drive, at the corner of East Main Street and South Lincoln Street in Kent, Ohio. It features more than 30,000 pieces in its collection, amassed from many generous donors. The museum is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 5 to 17. The museum is free for children age 5 and under and for those with a Kent State ID. Sunday admission is free for all ages. Parking is free for all museum attendees. Patrons should use the allotted museum spaces in the Rockwell Hall parking lot. For more information, please call 330-672-3450 or visit www.kent.edu/museum.
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