Date & Time: 
Thursday, July 5, 2007 - 7:17am
Event Description: 

Library visitors can "tune in and turn on" to the 1960s at a new exhibit that runs through July.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love" - when tens of thousands of young people flocked to the countercultural mecca in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District – Saint Mary's librarian Sue Birkenseer invited the campus community to display cherished relics from the era in St. Albert Hall.

"This turned into a really fun project," says Birkenseer, who selects history and political science books for the library. "There are a lot of people on campus who were there or who are old enough to remember (the Summer of Love), and many of them were excited that their materials would be displayed."

Among the items is a vintage 1967 Fender Mustang electric guitar donated by Ron Turner of the Advancement Office. Turner, who was in grade school during the Summer of Love, bought the guitar in the late 1960s to play it in a rock band he formed in high school.

"It was the 125th one minted that year," Turner says. "It's the model that was used by the Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman and later by Nirvana's Kirk Cobain."

There are also original LP covers from albums synonymous with the revolutionary sound of the era, including the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Other display cases include iconic images from Summer of Love-era films that shaped public perceptions of cultural changes, including The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy.

The exhibit goes beyond 1967 to examine the legacies of the 60s, especially civil disobedience and activism. There are images from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington and from the 1969 People's Park protests in Berkeley. There is also an article from the New York Times Magazine by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on the hippie culture emerging in and around Haight-Ashbury.

Items from Saint Mary's include The Collegian editorial page from May 26, 1967, where 26 faculty members signed a "Statement of Conscience" protesting the Vietnam War draft.

"It was fascinating to see that," Birkenseer says. "There were not a lot of events on the campus itself, but to see those members of the Saint Mary's community taking a stand, that was a highlight."

The History Department's Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, who is writing a book about women of the '60s counterculture, remembers tagging along with her older sisters to the human be-ins and concerts at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom. She spent much of the 1970s in the back-to-the land movement, living on a rural commune. She says there's much more to the 1960s than the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll that many of today's younger people associate with the era.

"They don't see hippies as serious cultural rebels – a generation of young Americans that were part of a venerable Utopian tradition and sought to provide a model to 'straight' society of how to embrace a less competitive and more life-sustaining, mindful and creative life," she says.

--John Grennan
Office of College Communications

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