Far out: Museum exhibit captures Aspen, circa ’75
June 21, 2010
ASPEN – The old adage (if you were in Aspen in the ’70s, you can’t remember it) aside, the Aspen Historical Society plans to jog a few memories with its new exhibit – Out of Your Mind, Body and Spirit: Voices of Aspen, 1975.
The second floor of the society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum, to be formally unveiled Tuesday, is devoted to Aspen in the mid-1970s – think crimes of fashion, public nudity and a freewheeling party town where anything went and everyone played on a softball team.
The exhibit gives a nod to the times, from women’s lib to Nixon’s downfall and the gas crisis, but it’s the Aspen-centric elements of the exhibit that will either leave museum-goers wistfully remembering the past or wishing they’d been alive – and in Aspen – when it all went down.
There is, of course, a display honoring the not-exactly-accredited Aspen State Teachers College, founded in 1975, which promulgated campus activities like bowling on the newly built downtown pedestrian malls, using a beer keg for a ball and people for pins. It was likely more about getting high than higher learning. The college handbook – there’s a copy on display to peruse – offered such course selections as Advanced Hustling 401, Sub-letting 104 and Drinking 205.
“It was irreverent – that was a big part of what we wanted to talk about. There was such a sense of fun,” said curator Lisa Hancock, who put together the exhibit with archivist Anna Scott and researcher Megan Cerise.
There are more serious elements to the exhibit, as well – Aspen grappling with growth, for one – but there’s also a tribute to local musicians of the era (John Denver, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Starwood and others) and to the sports scene.
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On screen, one can watch a virtual reality-style drive down the streets of Aspen. The footage was captured on a video laser disc in 1978 and has now, finally, been converted to DVD so it can be easily screened. Scenes of Aspen from 30-plus years ago fly by, the images captured by a crew of MIT students driving a Suburban with a camera mounted atop the vehicle up and down the streets of downtown.
Finally, there’s the ski bum room, replete with a fern hanging in a macrame plant holder, a bong, albums available for playing on a small stereo, a working lava lamp, posters of the era and a ski-waxing set-up on an ironing board.
“We think it’s going to be fun,” Hancock said. “It’s something people can relate to because they lived it.”
The Wheeler/Stallard Museum, 620 W. Bleeker St., is open from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $6 and includes access to the historical society’s Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum, as well.
Admission is free starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the society holds a grand opening for the exhibit. The event is an installment in the society’s Time Travel Tuesdays series.