The Minnesota’s Greatest Generation Project started in 2005, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. The capstone of the project is the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation Exhibit that opens Saturday, May 22, at the Minnesota History Center.
Thursday was Media Preview Day and in addition to inviting the known press, the Minnesota Historical Society also invited the local blogger crowd and even called the last hour of the preview a “blogger exclusive.” Nice idea although I may have been the only actual blogger to show. I think the scheduling had something to do with that; they held the preview from 10 am to 1 on Thursday. I’m lucky that I have a flexible “real job” work schedule.
Since the invitation stressed the intergenerational aspect of the exhibit, I invited my 11-year-old grandson to join me. Robbie was a great choice and he really enjoyed the exhibit. He brought a notebook and took notes. Joe Hoover, a member of the Historical Society Web Team, was our guide.
The Greatest Generation preceded the Baby Boomer generation. I’m a baby boomer and I was born in the last section of the exhibit, the boom years, where you find all the TV sets. The exhibit itself, all 6,000 square feet, is laid out chronologically starting with the Depression years, then WWII, and then the boom years. There is lots to see and hear.
Some of the highlights of our visit were the 1930s movie theater illusion that makes you think you are in a movie theater with rows and rows of seats, the bullet-packing assembly line, and the C-47 troop transport simulated flight into Europe on D-Day with enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns firing away. They also have a soda fountain from the 30s which was the “social web” for that generation.
You can listen to many recorded stories as you wander through the exhibit and you can chat to a couple of folks who lived during the time: Frederick McKinley Jones and Virginia Hope. Frederick (1892-1961) was a self-taught engineer and inventor who held over sixty patents. He invented the cooling system to preserve foods for long-distance transport via trucks which was the beginning of the Thermo King Corporation. He was black.
Virginia was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). These women were the military stateside flyers during World War II, freeing the men for combat. They learned to fly many different types of planes. After the War, they were discharged and it wasn’t until 1977 that they were granted veteran status which allowed them to receive benefits.
Make sure to chat with Frederick and Virginia when you visit the exhibit.