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The Sixties

June 7, 2018

The Sixties

Remembering Who Was T/here

The Psychedelic Review began in 1963. From the Little Magazines Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library.

The 1960s in the United States is remembered as a time of transformation. Like today, the country was politically divided, and this division resulted in great outpourings of political and artistic energy. At the same time, historic cultural change was also underway, forever altering the aesthetics of American literature, music, art, and design. For instance, the decade saw the invention of “free jazz,” a genre coined for Ornette Coleman’s 1961 release of that name, which emphasize spontaneous improvisation. Seven years later, the psychedelic era was brought into the mainstream with The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s long-form nonfiction book about Ken Kesey, his Merry Pranksters, and their use of LSD. Many more examples of changefulness in the 1960’s are found in our exhibit.

The Sixties: Remembering Who Was T/here links events in Madison to the larger national scene through books, record albums, photographs, and other documentary sources. Along the way, we highlight some of the individuals who enacted or stimulated change through their writing, music, or activism.

This exhibit features collection items from the Department of Special Collections, Mills Music Library, and University Archives. It was collaboratively curated by Susan Barribeau, Tom Caw, David Pavelich, and Carly Sentieri. Our thanks to Natasha Veeser, Dan Joe, and Robin Rider for their wonderful help.


The UW Madison Libraries are involved in several projects and events across campus this year, highlighting the importance of the 1960s era, including the Madison Reunion. Over the course of the June event, the Archives are partnering with Ben Sidran and the Madison Public Library to gather stories about those who lived the 60s in Madison. Their memories will be part of an upcoming documentary.

The Archives has also collaborated and provided materials for the exhibit “The 602 in the Sixties” by John Riggs.

June 13-July 27, 2018
Class of 1925 Gallery, Memorial Union
10am-8pm daily

Opening reception: June 15, 5-7:30pm

The artist states, “Madison in the 1960’s was a Midwest way station between San Francisco, Berkeley and Greenwich Village for a tidal wave of rebellion and cultural evolution.

The 602 Club had become by then the watering hole for artists, activists, literati, intellectuals, and a mixed bag of scholars and misfits from all disciplines. It was also one of the early public gathering spots on Friday and Saturday nights for the gay community of Madison, and the University Art Department faculty meetings generally ended up there as well. It was an exhilarating scene–the characters were iconoclastic, the mood rowdy, and the conversation heady. Proclamations rang out, and the closer to closing time, the grander (and louder) they became.

I tended bar there during my undergraduate years, very early in my photographic career. While serving schooners, mixing drinks and making change, I was shooting with a 35mm Nikon SP in what little there was of available light. I was twenty-two, ignorant, arrogant, idealistic, and ambitious. And along with most everyone else, drinking way too much. Just home from two years in France and Germany studying French and German literature and philosophy, I was enchanted by the diversity of people and the sophistication of wit and language on all sides. It was this enchantment that stimulated me to record the raw power of the personalities, the physical beauty of the people, and the exotic ambiance of the 602 Club. This exhibit is my record of that time and place.”

This exhibition is generously supported by the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters and Science.

Kohler Art Library also has a new exhibit: Through a Magnum Lens: Photographing the 1960s

The turbulence of the 1960s was made powerfully visible through the medium of documentary photography.  Members of Magnum, an international photographic cooperative, captured indelible images of the decade.  These images document the political and economic turmoil that marked the decade: the Vietnam War and anti-war movement; the California Grape Strike led by Cesar Chavez; Civil Rights marches in Washington, D.C. and Selma, Alabama; student protests and strikes in Paris, France; and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Cultural happenings such as Woodstock, and the Hippie counterculture are also depicted.

On view are books showcasing the work of the following Magnum photographers:  Eve Arnold, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt, Paul Fusco, Leonard Freed, Philip Jones Griffiths, Elliott Landy, Mary Ellen Mark, Constantine Manos, Marc Riboud, W. Eugene Smith, and Dennis Stock.

On view at the Kohler Art Library, Elvehjem Building, June 11-September 14, 2018