AUSTIN — The sound of a Huey helicopter sets the scene for visitors of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where a new exhibit presents a month-by-month view of a pivotal year in Texas and American history — 1968.
"It starts in the month of January, where in everyone's living room was news of the Vietnam war," said the museum's deputy director Margaret Koch.
Artifacts, pop culture and fashion converge in the multimedia presentation that celebrates The Year that Rocked History.
"So the pair of jeans that little by little became a patchwork quilt, but it became a fashion statement as well," Koch said.
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., war protests, the Olympics, and even an original voting booth are part of the exhibit.
"1968 was the year Mr. Rogers went national," Koch noted. A familiar sweater and shoes belonging to the late children's show star are on display, along with the purple jacket and boots of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
A second exhibit at the museum explores the same time period locally, called When Austin Got Weird.
"It’s a look at the music poster artistry from the late 1960s into the 70s," Koch said, describing the posters that helped put Austin on the map as a music mecca.
"Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin are going to grab visitors' attention almost immediately," exhibit assistant Jenny Cobb said.
Before the age of computers and social media, artists like Jim Franklin drew posters by hand to get the word out about upcoming concerts. He got his start at the first psychedelic club in Austin, the Vulcan Gas Company, where in 1967 you could buy a concert ticket for $1.50.
"He started with these psychedelic posters that are the colors and free form lettering," Cobb said. "When the Vulcan closed in 1969, he opened the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1970."
As the music progressed, so did the poster styles, showcasing Austin's counter-cultural vibe.
"Some of these young men and women were really setting the stage for what Austin would become," Koch said. "We’ve held on to that uniqueness through the years."
This taste of history foreshadows what still makes Austin weird more than 40 years later.