The Illinois State Museum wants to show Gen X some love. But it wants to make sure it does so the way Gen Xers would want it done.
An exhibit dubbed “Growing Up Generation X” is coming to the Springfield museum in the fall, and museum officials are looking for input from Gen Xers as to what needs to be included.
“It’s a small generation. It’s kind of like a brief time frame,” Erika Holst, curator of history at the museum told Illinois Public Media. “And it’s kind of overlooked a lot. I think it’s like popular culture. So, it’s like time to give this generation its moment in the sun.”
Generation Xers were born from 1965 to 1980, what museum officials call the “last generation to have had an analog childhood.”
To that end, Holst is inviting members of that age group to fill out an extensive online survey to help curators figure out what needs to be part of the exhibit. From portable cassette players to inline skates, museum officials want to hear Gen Xers’ memories.
“We think it’s time Gen X got some love,” Holst told the Chicago Sun-Times.
In addition to the survey, Holst would love to see photos or actual items from Gen Xers to include in the exhibit.
“You know, it’s kind of like the ephemeral,” she said. “Like, if someone has their slap bracelets or trapper keeper or any of their America Online discs, or their original Nintendo or Atari.”
Plans for the exhibit include re-creating a rec room from 1980 that will be completely hands-on — as long as COVID cooperates many months from now.
“We want to set up a place where you can like sit down and actually like play a Nintendo or pop a cassette into a tape deck and listen to a tape or make a mixtape,” Holst said.
The plans go far deeper than just showing off the items, however.
“We want to dig into the experience of being a child in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s,” Holst told the Associated Press. “How did growing up adapting to new technology, often unsupervised, in the shadow of the Cold War, Reaganomics, Just Say No and the AIDS crisis shape this generation of people who are now coming into their own in middle age?”
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and remains one of the great free attractions in the state. It features a variety of temporary exhibits, as well as three permanent displays:
- At Home in the Heartland, which tells the story of real people who lived in Illinois over the past three centuries
- Changes, which allows visitors to see, hear, and touch the state’s natural history
- Mary Ann McLean Play Museum, which is a free children’s area for play and learning.