You’re not in Levittown anymore.
Or maybe you are. If nostalgia for the great American dream of suburban living as it used to be is your thing, then the soon-to-open Minnesota Historical Society immersive exhibit, “Suburbia,” may well be right up your alley — the one that’s on the opposite side of your neatly-trimmed lawn, out back of your tract house.
This is MHS’s valiant attempt to show off the multifaceted sides of the suburban Twin Cities area, with three immersive settings dividing into “Building Suburbia,” “Living in Suburbia,” and “Shopping in Suburbia.”
It will have just about everything from Home-A-Rama footage circa the 1950s to an interactive display where you can hurl the local beanbag “newspaper” onto a front porch, just to see how good you are at avoiding breaking a window or a barking dog. There’s even a display of what MHS labels once-fashionable vices: Cards, cigarettes, and cocktails.
There’s a more serious side, of course. A number of social and economic factors are offered up for consideration, not the least of which is a portion of the exhibit devoted to Victor Gruen’s massive architectural wonder, the enclosed Southdale shopping mall. Visitors will also be able to learn about the Smith family, who overcame racial discrimination in the Maplewood area to eventually build their dream home. And, it’s not all nostalgia and history; the exhibits examines the future of the suburban notion, too.
But, who are we kidding? The nostalgia’s fun and informative and downright important.
A ton of local trivia will set your brain thinking, and there’s even an opportunity to get inside a 1956 Chevrolet Townsman station wagon to learn about freeway growth in the Eisenhower era.
If that’s not enough to send you to MHS when the exhibit opens on Oct. 10, then maybe the answer to a single question will.
Where else will you be able to “meet” Betty Bach, Mrs. Minnesota 1958, through TV clips during which you’ll hear about the “ideal” housewife?
Oh, and you also get her donut recipe.