A Material World | Virginia Museum of History & Culture
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A Material World

Photographs of the 1980s from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

“’Cause we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” Madonna, 1984

From hair to defense budgets, shoulder pads to tax cuts, the 1980s were BIG.

Bookended by the Reagan Revolution and the end of the Cold War, the 1980s brought fundamental changes to American society and our nation’s geopolitical role. After a defeat in war, disillusionment, advances in civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and disco, Americans became status seekers and shopaholics—the “Me Generation” was born and Madonna’s “Material Girl” was their anthem. The Eighties are remembered by many as a time of excess and extremes. But this materialism was not embraced or experienced by all Americans, and many pushed the boundaries of what was conventional.

Featuring forty-three iconic images from the archives of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and accompanied by historical objects that include fragments of the Berlin Wall and a tambourine and gloves used by Prince in Purple Rain, this exhibition highlights political and social issues as well as pop culture and fashion trends as they were experienced by Virginians. 

The photographs from the Richmond Times-Dispatch were important when they appeared in the 1980s as evidence of news being reported at the time. Today, they make real what has become legend to a generation who know the events of the decade were important without knowing why. They also help us understand today’s culture, which is being shaped by ’80s kids who are bringing that decade’s values, worldviews, and attitudes back.

After being on display from November 18, 2017 through April 8, 2018 at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, the exhibition will travel nationwide.

This exhibition was produced in partnership with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Exhibition Information

From
Sat Nov 18 2017, 10:00amSun Apr 8 2018, 5:00pm
Open
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
In Susan and David Goode Gallery

Highlighted objects from A Material World

Photograph of Stephanie Lane wearing seven Swatch watches. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Enter Fullscreen More information
Photograph of Stephanie Lane wearing seven Swatch watches. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Swatch (“Swiss + watch”) was founded in 1983 by a Swiss watchmaker in response to the “quartz crisis” when Asian-made digital watches competed against traditional European-made mechanical watches.
Photograph of East German guards standing on Berlin Wall. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Enter Fullscreen More information
Photograph of East German guards standing on Berlin Wall. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Dozens of East German guards stood on top of the Berlin Wall and watched people break loose large and small chunks.
Photography of Prince Rogers Nelson. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Enter Fullscreen More information
Photograph of Prince Rogers Nelson. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Over the course of his four-decade career, the artist born Prince Rogers Nelson became known as much for his gender-bending, seductive fashion as for his boundary-pushing music.
Photograph of a DeLorean car. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Enter Fullscreen More information
Photograph of a DeLorean car. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The DeLorean might have simply faded into obscurity had it not been for the movie "Back to the Future" (1985), where high school student Marty McFly is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling version of the car
Photograph of Terry Brawtley. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Enter Fullscreen More information
Photograph of Terry Brawtley. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
This outfit—modeled here by Terry Brawtley—was heavily influenced by clothes popular among urban breakdancers and by the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which was released the previous year.
Photograph of Stephanie Lane wearing seven Swatch watches. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Photograph of Stephanie Lane wearing seven
Photograph of East German guards standing on Berlin Wall. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Photograph of East German guards standing
Photography of Prince Rogers Nelson. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Photograph of Prince Rogers Nelson.
Photograph of a DeLorean car. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Photograph of a DeLorean car.
Photograph of Terry Brawtley. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Photograph of Terry Brawtley.

This exhibition was produced in partnership with the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Support provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Changing Exhibition Fund

The museum entrance may be impacted by construction. Click here for up-to-date information about where to enter the building.

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