Museum digs up cultural past - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Museum digs up cultural past

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Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003 10:44 am

Dig out that stainless steel electric mixer you bought in 1962, stashed in the corner of your kitchen cabinet and forgotten over four decades.

Take down that faded movie poster of "Rebel Without A Cause " starring James Dean that debuted in 1955 and was showcased at movie theaters throughout the Valley.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art would like to borrow those nostalgic items for a special exhibit titled "At Home with Ozzie and Harriet: Mid-Century Design," which is being assembled for display Jan. 24 to May 2.

"We’re looking for memorabilia from post-World War II to the 1960s, especially mass-produced items found in Arizona homes," said Debbie Goldstein, guest curator and exhibit coordinator.

The era covers decades of history — from the Cold War and McCarthyism to the baby boom and UFOs — and will feature early TV sets, furniture, Western-themed memorabilia, appliances, toys and everyday knick-knacks, Goldstein said.

The idea was born after the museum received more than 300 melamine dinnerware items from Scottsdale collectors Christopher Geoffrey McPherson and Matt Hinrichs. Melamine is a crystalline compound used in resins as molding and laminating compounds for dishes, utensils and adhesives.

The plastic dinner settings from the 1940s to 1960s represent the "Golden Age " of melamine design, McPherson said.

"The Navy in the early 1940s needed a line of dishes that were lightweight and more resilient to replace heavy and fragile china dinnerware," McPherson said.

He said Watertown Manufacturing Co. designer Jon Hedu created a line called, "Watertown Ware," an ivory melamine that is now considered very rare.

The melamine boom that began with a military need spread to kitchen and dining room cabinets across American. The use of melamine expanded to include plastic items that are being used today in autos, homes and elsewhere. Goldstein said the melamine collection is an example of what the museum is seeking for its exhibit.

"It’s not only something that many museum visitors will be able to see and say, ‘Hey, I had — or have — one of those,’ but it also reflects an important period of American history," Goldstein said.

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