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Spotlight Shines on American Pop Culture with Some of the Coolest Artifacts and Souvenirs of All-Time at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album sold about 66 million copies worldwide. The finale of “M*A*S*H” drew 125 million viewers. Super Hero comic books have dominated the shelves for decades. Hot Wheels cars are one of the most popular toys ever – with over four billion produced since the first was cast in 1968. 

What do these things have in common? They were all big newsmakers that defined pop culture back in the day. Many of them continue to shape trends today. Visitors will learn more about how these objects shape the trends in our lives and how they influence us at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’ newest permanent exhibit, The Galleries for American Arts & Popular Culture. 

Popular culture influences almost every aspect of our everyday lives. Toys, books, performing arts, TV, music, and clothes are all ingredients that help create individual personalities. 

The world’s largest children’s museum is taking a peek into the past to see how it might influence our future when it opens The Galleries for American Arts and Popular Culture, featuring a permanent exhibit—American POP—and a temporary exhibit—DANCE! Opening day is June 17, 2017.

The permanent exhibit —American POP will be divided into four categories:

  • Toys and Games: Consumers demand toys that can be personalized to reflect their interests and personalities. Objects that help tell a family’s story could include homemade Barbie clothes, “adoptable” Cabbage Patch dolls, and Build-a-Bear stuffed animals.
  • TV, Film, and Music: Some shows, songs, and movies remain popular across generations. Examples of stories that have survived the test of time include The Wizard of Oz, holiday TV specials, or the Star Trek television series or Star Wars movie props and even Lady Gaga’s shoes.    
  • Fashion and Textiles: Fashion trends can be a reflection of cultural values, technology, or events of the time. Poodle skirts to miniskirts, leggings and cowboy boots are just a few examples of how styles have changed and in some cases returned over time. 
  • Comics, Art, and Literature: How do we use popular culture? 

Families also surround themselves with products, merchandise, and reading material that reflects their personality and sense of identity or values. How do lunchboxes, backpacks, or cellphone covers define someone’s personality? The museum has more than 14,000 comic books in its Max Simon Collection.

“Batman, Barbie, Hot Wheels, LEGOs, and Star Wars are multigenerational characters and stories shared by grandparents, parents and their children. Because these characters and stories are ‘evergreen,’ they provide a wonderful means for families to engage with each other and discuss how the stories are the same and how they may have changed over time,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum. 

Pop culture items and themes transcend time—they are reborn from one generation to the next. American POP will offer a digital interactive look at film and TV storylines that will let you predict (and check) the endings. Inside the exhibit, you will also: 

  • See comics from the Max Simon Comic Book Collection
  • Put yourself in a digital comic book scene 
  • Explore toys and memorabilia from the museum’s newly acquired Batman collection
  • Discover how superheroes like Wonder Woman have changed with the times
  • Design your own fashions
  • Compare songs of different styles and eras
  • Predict movie plots
  • See iconic outfits worn by music stars or in popular films
  • Try-on the fads of another generation
  • And more!

DANCE! is a separate temporary exhibit that opens alongside The Galleries for American Arts & Popular Culture. There, families will have an opportunity to learn many different types of dance moves as well as how those dances tell a story, express emotions, and build relationships. Extraordinary costumes from famous dancers on TV or in the movies and objects that exemplify the hard work that goes into dance rehearsal will be on display.

Some of the dances through the decades that will be featured include:

  • The Charleston (20s-30s)
  • Swing (40s)
  • Twist (50s-60s)
  • Hustle (70s)
  • Macarena (80s-90s)
  • Chicken Noodle Soup (2000s to present)

The Galleries for American Arts and Popular Culture are made possible through lead gift support from Lilly Endowment Inc., Mel and Bren Simon, Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc., Gerald and Dorit Paul, Thelma L. “T” Wilds, Sharon W. Doiron, and Shirley S. Bryant.  

DANCE! is presented by Subway and Supported by Koorsen Fire & Security and Indianapolis Indians.