AN ARTIST'S RENDERING of the proposed museum at Bethel Woods, above. Below, the building which will house the exhibits.
New Museum Seeks 'Woodstock Artifacts'
By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL December 8, 2006 Some people spend their whole lives trying to get back to the 60s. All they have to do is go to Bethel.
With the inaugural season of Bethel Woods already under its belt, the Gerry Foundation is putting the finishing touches on a museum celebrating the Woodstock festival and the counterculture from which it was born.
The museum, located in the building atop the hill overlooking the concert pavilion, will explore the story of the Aquarian Exposition in White Lake from start to finish.
A look at the space race, civil rights movement, Vietnam war and its protests, the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Kennedys will help root the festival story in the context of the 1960s.
“We explore all of the cultural elements that made up the fabric of the 60s,” said Mike Egan, chief executive officer of the Museum Development Group for the Gerry Foundation, “how it hurtled through that decade with just change after change.
“This baby boomer generation, because of its large size, grabbed on and championed this cause, and rock and roll music was a big voice of that generation… it amplified their voice.”
The museum will take visitors on a journey through events Egan said “transformed America,” leading up to the summer of 1969 when man landed on the moon and 400,000 hippies descended on Bethel for three days of music, peace, love and drugs.
For people who lived through it, Egan said the change in America all seemed to culminate in Woodstock.
“No one saw it coming, but in hindsight, no one sees how it could have happened any other way,” he noted.
That’s why a third of the museum at Bethel Woods will focus on the ’60s.
More than half will be about the festival itself, from the location changes to the music itself.
Egan terms the exhibit “immersive,” with audio and video bits that will take people back to the actual events.
Included are interviews with musicians who appeared and people who were there during the three-day event.
An 18-minute movie in the high-definition stadium seating theatre will close up the trip for each visitor, and the downstairs section of the museum will be open to traveling exhibits that relate to the theme of the museum itself (likely exhibits that are music of ’60s related).
There will also be a section focused on the impact of Woodstock and a retail shop for visitors to pick up memorabilia.
But before any of that opens, the Gerry Foundation wants memorabilia to help fill the 7,600 square foot museum.
People have been approaching the foundation for months, looking for a place to share their stories and offering up their own personal pieces to the museum collection.
Already acquired is a billboard used to promote the festival (a promo seen in the special edition Woodstock movie), periodicals of the time that covered the event, some “hippie fashion” reflecting the clothing of the times, tickets, posters that promoted the event when it was scheduled in Wallkill and the updated poster with White Lake as the locale.
But Egan is convinced there’s more out there.
“There are so many crazy things we’d love to have,” he said.
Any merchandise purchased at the site, pieces of the wooden fence that surrounded the stage, backstage passes, photos of the event or the happenings in the county on that weekend, or iconic items from the 60s are all welcome.
“This thing was right here in Sullivan County,” Egan said. “I’ve got to believe this stuff is right here in people’s homes.”
Already acquired are the red and yellow jackets worn by event security, but Denise Frangipane, program officer of the Gerry Foundation, has heard rumors that some security officers wore purple jackets or pith helmets.
She’s also heard talk of blueprints or drawings out there somewhere perhaps in the back drawer of a local contractor hired to help build the stage or provide the materials.
There’s also a need for more ’60s materials, pins and hats with protest or political slogans, Kennedy campaign posters and signs used in war demonstrations.
The donations can be made outright to the Gerry Foundation, or items can be lent for use in the museum.
The foundation needs to have an idea of what they’ll have for the museum to incorporate into the design which means anyone with memorabilia should contact Egan and Frangipane by Dec. 15.
The museum itself does not yet have an opening date set.
“We hope to open sometime in 2007, but we’ll open when we get it right,” Egan said.
To donate or for more information, contact the Gerry Foundation at 295-2443 or email museum@ bethelwoodslive.org.