Few years in American history have been as pivotal and transformative as 1968. Fifty years later, Smithsonian Channel delves deep into the Smithsonian Institution’s vaults to relive a year that saw breathtaking change, violent tragedy and heroic sacrifice in SMITHSONIAN TIME CAPSULE: 1968. What are some of the significant objects that the Smithsonian decided were worth saving to capture the essence of those turbulent times? Personal stories and curator insights bear witness to a remarkable year that shaped the country, highlighting more than a dozen key objects from across the Smithsonian Institution’s collections. SMITHSONIAN TIME CAPSULE: 1968 premieres Monday, May 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.
From a veteran of the Tet Offensive sharing the story of the uniform he wore and recounting surviving a deadly ambush, to an interview with astronaut Jim Lovell remembering Apollo 8, these interviews bring to life the pivotal events of the year. Acting as a portal to the past, each interview and object takes viewers back to a specific time in ’68 and identifies a story that has impacted history.
The film remembers the civil rights struggle with objects including the remains of a 1968 banner – hung in the National Museum of American History – made to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. following his shocking assassination earlier that year. Later lit aflame by a museum visitor, the charred remnants serve as a reminder of the struggle that the nation continues to fight 50 years later.
Some objects echo current headlines. After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Roy Lichtenstein painted a stunning visual commentary on guns for Time Magazine, and Olympian Tommie Smith recalls the build-up to – and aftermath of – his iconic 1968 protest, a controversial act that reverberates today.
From national events to other iconic objects, including Pringles “newfangled” potato chips, early mobile phones and the popularization of the Peace Sign, SMITHSONIAN TIME CAPSULE: 1968 not only tells us what happened, but what it was like to live through it.