Teen Miami

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Mariela Rossel pritikin

Published on December 30, 2012

  • Description:

    The Teen Miami exhibition (http://www.historymiami.org/museum/exhibitions/details/teen-miami/) at the museum of HistoryMiami attempts to explain the history of teen culture in Miami from the1940’s to the 2000’s. As I walked through this exhibition, which I worked closely with as the coordinator of the teen program before the exhibition development stage, I was reminded of my years as a teen growing up in Miami. The curators, composed of 21 teens from across the county and three staff members, had been working on the concepts of the exhibition approximately one-year before the opening. The development of these ideas and concepts ask the questions: What was it to be a teen in Miami in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on? Was it the same as being a teen in Miami in 2000’s? Why or why not? Although the exhibition raises interesting questions there are other challenges around the structure of the building that make it difficult to enjoy the exhibition.

    As visitors enter the building where HistoryMiami and two other cultural institutions are located; it is difficult to see where the main entrance of the museum is since it is located in an interior plaza on a higher floor than the ground level. In order to get to the interior plaza, which is removed from where pedestrians walk, visitors must find the entrance to this space by walking around the building, which is the size of one city block. The entire building has the look and feel of an old Spanish fortress, done intentionally by a defunct design plan that was never completed in the 1980’s. Due to this, finding one of the entrances to the building and later the entrance to the museum can be challenging and may deter the first time visitor.

    Once the visitor locates the entrance and enters the museum, he/she is met with a smaller lobby exhibition on the Guayabera; “The Guayabera: A Shirt’s Story,” explores the changing uses and significance of the guayabera, a traditional piece of menswear worn by Latin American and Caribbean populations.” (http://www.historymiami.org/museum/exhibitions/details/the-guayabera-a-shirtaos-story—1/)

    Beyond the lobby exhibition is the Teen Miami exhibition. When entering this space visitors are greeted with an introductory panel explaining the teen program leading up to the exhibition and those involved in the exhibition development. Next to this panel is a smaller shelf where three research books are displayed where the teens explored immigration, labor and leisure studies. Walking further into the exhibition one can see that the layout is a radial design where different sections have been assigned specific themes such as music, school, diversity, technology, war, and fashion. As I walked through the space I became more curious about the experiences others had had during their teen years in Miami. I felt the Miami where I grew up, a bilingual metropolis, was the only Miami that could have existed. However, as I walked through and understood that for many years it was a sleepy southern town, I began to understand what teens before me might have experienced in my city.

    In the center of the radial design is a teen’s bedroom with elements of a current teen’s life and that of a previous teen’s life from the 1990’s. In hindsight, this section is not as memorable as some of the other more distinct sections of the exhibition, which focus on specific themes that resonate with visitors. Period clothing from the 50’s and 90’s were hung in and out of cases, school lockers, teen-made zines, and so on. However, I found a particular connection with the technology section where beepers and “brick” style portable phones were displayed. Although, I am not certain how common brick phones were with the teen population in the 80’s, I was very certain about the use of beepers among teens in Miami in the 90’s. When I saw the beeper I was transported to the early nineties when my older cousins would take me to neighborhood parties with their friends. This beeper behind the case was the perfect time traveling machine, it became a catalyst for conversation, reminiscing and created an instantaneous connection to a time in my life I had forgotten about. It was the most memorable moment for me visiting this exhibition and I could not help but think about how many objects, stories, and programs would cause as great of an emotional connection for others as they walk through the exhibition.

    Although, the exhibition details the history of teen life in Miami, curators have attempted to depict some of the national events and trends that may have affected teen in general throughout the decades. In that way, the exhibition seems to be reaching out to visitors who did not necessarily grow-up in Miami who may be able to connect to elements of their childhood through the Teen Miami exhibition.

Latest Comments (2)

Made by Teens?

by Kathleen Mclean - December 30, 2012

Mariela, do you know how much active participation teens had in the development and design of this exhibition? Was it done by museum professionals, with help by the teens, or the other way around?

Curated by teens....to an extent.

by Mariela Rossel pritikin - January 02, 2013

Kathleen, there was a curatorial team, not the teens, who studied youth culture and divided their research area by genre and time period. For example war was discussed but specific to the 1940’s and 1970’s. Music was discussed but focused on documenting garage bands (1960’s) through the “Miami Sound” era (1970’s). Among man things, the teens researched the archival images, conducted an oral history project for the exhibition and later helped develop the programming. I believe the teens helped in the exhibition development phase (possibly influencing design, color, space) but I am not certain to the extent which they directly worked on the physical aspects of the exhibition.

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