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Coming of Age: The 1968 Generation exhibit in Willmar, Minn.

Isaac Malone, 11, of Willmar looks through a display of record album covers which are part of the 1968 exhibit currently on display at the Willmar Library. Panels from the Minnesota Historical Center's traveling display on 1968 are on display at the library through the month of June. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)1 / 2
Panels from the Minnesota Historical Center's traveling display on 1968 are now on display at the Willmar Library. The exhibit explores the self-expression, upheaval, change and sounds of the '60s and Vietnam War. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 2

WILLMAR -- People who grew up during the 1960s can relive that revolutionary decade through songs and stories at a free concert Saturday night in Willmar.

Stage and screen vocalist Prudence Johnson and pianist, accordionist and occasional storyteller Dan Chouinard, both of Minneapolis, will present "Tiptoe through the '60s'' from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. All ages are welcome.

During the first half of the concert, Johnson and Chouinard will perform music from the decade. During intermission, they're hoping for requests and will allow people to tell stories and they will sing songs based on audience interests.

The free concert is part of the Minnesota Historical Society's Traveling Exhibits Program and connects with the Historical Society's exhibit "Coming of Age, The 1968 Generation'' now on display through the month of June at the Willmar Public Library.

The exhibit explores the self-expression, upheaval, change and sounds of the '60s and Vietnam War. Visitors will have a glimpse into the lives of Minnesotans who grew up in and around 1968.

The exhibit features six graphic panels, a multi-media kiosk and a collection of popular 1968 records to flip through. This exhibit is on temporary loan from the Minnesota History Center, which is part of the state Historical Society in St. Paul.

The exhibit's first stop is Willmar, followed by showings at the St. Cloud Public Library and the Fergus Falls Public Library.

As part of the exhibit, 12 Willmar students will be interviewing six local residents about their experiences as teenagers during the '60s. These interviews began Wednesday and conclude Friday and will be displayed as a companion exhibit starting Saturday.

The students were recruited by library staff with the help of media specialists at the Willmar Middle School and High School, said Maren Levad, Historical Society museum outreach specialist.

Levad said the 1968 exhibit is founded in oral histories.

"It received a lot of input from our own teen advisory council about what teens might want to know about that experience in that decade,'' Levad said.

She said teens were interested in entertainment and pop culture, but also wanted to know how teenagers felt about possibly being drafted into military service after high school to fight in the Vietnam War.

"That was something the kids talked about is how does that feel because that is something they don't experience,'' said Levad.

The exhibit also provides a taste of everyday life in Minnesota.

"If you were 14 and in high school, were you involved in the counterculture and protest, was everyone part of the hippie movement or was everyone part of the equal rights movement, and obviously that's not the case at all,'' said Levad.

"Much like their own experience today where there are lots of things going on in the world that people are actively engaged in, protesting or fighting for. But when you're 14, a lot of times you're just worried about what the girl in the class thinks of you or your parents or your family and your job,'' she said.

Exhibit developer and author Brian Horrigan gave an overview of the year during a program at Willmar Public Library last month. Horrigan, Minnesota Historical Society exhibition curator, contributed to a companion book -- available at the library -- about 1968.

A national 1968 exhibit was developed by the Minnesota Historical Society in cooperation with museums in Atlanta, Chicago and Oakland. That exhibit was displayed until this past February at the Minnesota History Museum.

Levad said many people were interested in the national exhibit. She said young people were interested in what their parents or grandparents listened to and saw.

"There was so much expression going on and that's another thing we've really realized that teenagers connect to a lot is how do you express yourself through clothes, through the music you choose, the slang that you use,'' she said.

"And the Boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964) absolutely connected to the exhibit very much so and were really excited, just to remember. It was very nostalgic for them.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150