A generation gap

“We live in the space between the end of the movement and the beginning of the revolution.” These words were spoken by American sociologist, novelist and cultural commentator Todd Gitlin in 1967.

Civil rights, free love and rock ‘n’ roll: the 1960s and early ‘70s was an era defined by its many revolutions.

The Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum introduces this rebellious generation of the 1960s to the technological youth of today with its new exhibit, “Talkin’ Bout My Generation.”

Inspired by the 40th anniversary of legendary music festival Woodstock, “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” compares youth culture of the 1960s to that of the early 2000s.

Curated by Virginia Eichhorn, this exhibit focuses on different forms of expression – displaying prominent issues of both generations, the influences of youth culture on its own era and how young people chose and choose to articulate themselves.

Upon entering the exhibition, ‘60s culture is very apparent.

Quotations in red paint from well-known forward-thinking figures of the time are displayed along the walls of the exhibit.

“Music is the soundtrack of your life,” reads one stated by prominent television personality Dick Clark.

“Civil disobedience, that’s not our problem. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity and war and cruelty,” read the words of established author and social critic Howard Zinn.

The first two rooms contain a variety of colourful artifacts from concept albums and authentic ‘60s apparel to historic videos from civil-rights movements and anti-war protests.

All of these pieces recall the craving for greater justice and social change that drove young people in the 1960s: a time when youth utilized fashion, art and music to make their voices heard and address issues of the era.
The final room of the exhibition reintroduces visitors to the 21st century.

Anonymous quotations in blue paint are displayed across the walls, stating things such as, “I wouldn’t go to a protest. I’d be afraid I’d be the only one to show up” and, “For generations kids have been trying to make themselves heard – but now that we are, are we ready?”

Around the room are recent album covers and concert posters, but instead of videos of historic moments there are voice recordings from the teenagers of today.

The recorded voices are those of the 2009 Youth Advisory Committee, a group of young people interviewed for their opinions concerning the actions of youth and the issues of 2009.

“The problem is … the majority of our society is unwilling to stand up for what we believe in,” says one voice.

Quotations and footage stress what the exhibit interprets as the key paradox of modern society – that in today’s technological world people are connected to each other more than ever.

However, while youth in particular may be well acquainted with these tools, the recordings and pieces found in the room suggest that they generally fail to utilize them to their full advantage, unlike how the 1960s generation used fashion, music and art.

“Historically, the ‘60s were ripe with political unrest and social justice vigilantes. It’s important for younger generations to understand the issues and conflict that came before them in order to make decisions about things in current day,” said marketing manager of the Children’s Museum Angela Olano.

By giving visitors insight to the youth they were, the youth they are now and what they may one day become, the exhibit attempts to bridge a generation gap between the revolutionary actions of the ‘60s to the prospective voices of 2009.

“Talkin’ Bout My Generation” opened on May 23 and runs until September 7 at the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum in Kitchener.

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