NEW: American Pop Culture Exhibition at Smithsonian American History Museum

January, 2023: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History brings television, film, music and sports together in one enthralling space with its big new permanent exhibition, “Entertainment Nation.”

After Gloria Estefan met Emilio Estefan (above: costume worn by Gloria and Emilio’s drum) through her work with the local Cuban-Americanquartet Miami Latin Boys, Miami Sound Machine was born and became a family business following their marriage in 1978.

More than 200 artifacts are featured in the new exhibition, “Entertainment Nation,” including Muhammad Ali’s warm-up robe; the angel’s jacket from the Broadway production Rent,; chairs from the set of TV’s “All in the Family; a costume worn by Sylvestor Stallone in the film Rocky; Prince’s “Cloud” guitar; a dress worn by performer Gloria Estefan and a conga drum used by musician Emilio Estefan from the Miami Sound Machine.

The performer Prince, who died in 2016, had several Cloud guitars. Smithsonian conservators analyzed this one that the artist donated to the museum in 1993 and determined that it was likely the first Cloud guitar ever built for Prince and the one featured in his 1984 film Purple Rain.

So there are the major objects that visitors often seek out first, from Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, to the familiar silhouettes of R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the comfortable sneakers and red cardigan that Fred Rogers donned each day on the TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and the familiar, worn chairs Edith and Archie Bunker used on the set of the 1970s TV hit “All in the Family.”

Comedian, writer and actor Ali Wong wore this dress in the 2016 Netflix feature “Baby Cobra.”

But there is no shortage of recognizable surprises at every turn, including the signpost from TV’s “M*A*S*H,” Cyndi Lauper’s dress from her She’s So Unusual album cover and early examples of Jim Henson’s puppets that the master puppeteer created for a local TV show before reaching worldwide audiences with “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street.”

Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, the TV series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” illustrated a dystopian future in which women with the ability to have children were forced to serve the elites of the totalitarian religious state, the Republic of Gilead. Ane Crabtree designed the costume of Offred, played by the actor Elisabeth Moss.

Every effort was made to reflect the rich cultural diversity that gave rise to entertainment, and the exhibition includes Selena’s performance ensemble from the mid-1990s, Althea Gibson’s tennis uniform from her 1957 Wimbledon win, the stretchy dress comedian Ali Wong wore in her 2016 “Baby Cobra” Netflix stand-up special, and Maya Angelou’s typewriter from the1980s—on view in a display of recent acquisitions near the exhibition.

The exhibition features the warm-up robes for both the professional boxer Muhammad Ali and the actor Sylvester Stallone, who famously portrayed Robert “Rocky” Balboa in the 1976 film Rocky, a pairing that exemplifies the expanse of the entertainment world, says one of the show’s curators John Troutman

Oscar the Grouch and Elmo from “Sesame Street” are included in a display about children’s television shows alongside old favorites like Howdy Doody, dating from the mid-20th century, and today’s SpongeBob Squarepants.

Superhero fans can choose their favorite eras, from George Reeves’ original 1950s “The Adventures of Superman” costume to Julie Newmar’s Catwoman suit for the ’60s “Batman” show to Halle Berry’s Storm costume for 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past

The critically acclaimed 1971 to 1979 television series “All in the Family,” created by Norman Lear, caricatured America’s fraught political differences.

Most objects are as rare as a Babe Ruth signed baseball. But others are things you may already have at home, such as Aretha Franklin’s 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black. Some still don’t quite feel historic yet, like Elisabeth Moss’ instantly recognizable 2016 costume from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Jermaine Heredia’s colorful jacket worn while playing Angel in Broadway’s Rent in the 1990s.

Other objects date much further back, such as early 19th-century sheet music from superstar opera singer Jenny Lind and paper toys depicting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Showfrom around the 1880s.


Smithsonian Article – CLICK

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