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The 1970s were more than leisure suits, platform shoes and disco. It was a decade that witnessed profound changes in politics, society and the economy. Images of everyday life in 1970s America evoke disco dancing and inflation, protests and bell bottoms, gas shortages and suburban sprawl. At a time when the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal wore on the national psyche, a burgeoning movement to protect the natural environment was gaining force.

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project takes a look at the ’70s using 90 remarkable color photographs taken for a federal photography project called Project DOCUMERICA (1971–1977). Created by the Environmental Protection Agency, Project DOCUMERICA was born out of the decade’s environmental awakening, producing striking photographs of many of that era’s environmental problems and achievements. DOCUMERICA photographers created a portrait of America in the early and mid-’70s. Around 70 well-known photographers, including John Corn, Lyntha Scott Eiler, Danny Lyon, Flip Schulke and John H. White, completed 115 separate assignments between 1972 and 1977. What emerged was a moving and textured portrait of America. The photos capture the decade’s fashions, trends and lifestyles. From smokestacks to leisure suits, these images are a fascinating time capsule of ’70s America.

In addition to the photography exhibition, visitors will find a 1970s-themed living room and authentic artifacts within the three galleries of the museum’s Velde Hall of American History. Sample artifacts include 8-tracks and vinyl records of the era, bell bottom jeans and other fashion trends, and everyday household items and décor, as well as an early electric car on loan from the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln. These items will be drawn from the museum’s own collection as well as personal collections of area residents and businesses and will help tell the story of the ‘70s. An interactive children’s space will focus on toys of the 1970s, including vintage Star Wars collectables. Try your hand at Atari, Simon and a custom 60-foot-long Hot Wheels track.

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project is an exhibition created by the National Archives and Records Administration and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

Searching for the Seventies Programming

Breakfast and Bell Bottoms - Members only preview!
Saturday, February 18, 8-10AM
Calling all of our groovy members! Join us for a first look at Searching for the Seventies on opening day, before the museum opens to the public. Wear your best bell bottoms or that perfect pair of platforms and take a trip down memory lane. A breakfast spread of gnarly goodies will be provided. To reserve your spot please call 402-444-5071 or email

Up Close with the 1970s
Saturdays, February 25, March 25 and April 29, 9-10AM

Join local experts on the last Saturday of the month for a special tour and commentary of Searching for the Seventies. Space
is limited on these tours (25) so please make reservations by calling 402-444-5071 or email

February 25 - The 1970s in America was characterized by the end of the postwar economic boom, a growing disillusionment with the effectiveness of government, and the rise of a conservative counter-movement that rejected the goals of the social movements of the previous decade. In this tour, Dr. Simon Appleford will discuss the impact of these changes on American society, politics, and the economy and how the events of the 1970s continue to shape our current time.

March 25 - The Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA Project of the 1970s followed this long tradition of capturing transformation as it was occurring, bringing focus to change occurring at the grassroots. Deindustrialization, economic stagnation, civil rights struggles, new technologies, and the environmental movement altered Americans’ relationships to the land, to built environments, and to one another. Using selected images and the stories behind them as a point of departure, join Dr. Heather Fryer as we take a look at the details of everyday life during America’s era of “malaise.”                      

April 29 - The 1970s saw the beginning of environmental awareness in America. A representative of the Arbor Day Foundation will utilize images from the exhibition to illustrate how individual awareness of the effects of human interaction on the planet changed in this decade.

What did Archie Bunker say? How entertainment shaped our national identity in the 1970s
Presented by Shannon Perich
March 21, 5:30 Reception, 6:30 Lecture

This talk will explore intersections of subjects in The DOCUMERICA Photography Project and artifacts from the National Museum of American History to examine how art, sports and entertainment embody, propel, affirm and challenge individual and national identity.

Shannon Thomas Perich is the Curator in the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She is also the Project Director for a new floor dedicated to the history of American Culture opening in 2018. She has curated many exhibitions and authored several books including The Changing Face of Portrait Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital and The Kennedys, featuring Richard Avedon’s photographs of JFK’s family just before his inauguration. She is an occasional blogger for Her collecting focus aspires to triangulate photography with an exploration of individual stories and lives, and a larger national narrative.

Reservations are required and regular museum admission applies; free for members. Please call 402-444-5071 or email to reserve your spot.

Teacher Workshop
Tuesday, February 21, 5-7PM
Secondary education teachers are invited to a “far out” night at The Durham Museum! Join us for a cocktail hour before getting the  “skinny” on Searching for the Seventies: The Documerica Photography Project. Learn about this fascinating exhibition that explores the social, political and environmental events and issues of this unique decade. Learn how to book a tour for your students and receive materials that you can take back to your classroom! This event is provided at no cost to secondary education teachers, but registration is required. “Do us a solid” and call Grace Sullivan, Education Programs Coordinator, at 402-444-5027 or e-mail to sign up!