Story by Haley Brink, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Museum
The American Spirits exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum is finally open to the public. The exhibit is sculpted around January 17, 1920, when the 18th Amendment went into place. This meant that the people of America were no longer allowed to sell, make, or transport alcoholic beverages. In that time, prohibition was at the same level on the Constitution as any other amendment.
The exhibit was entertaining as well as educational. All ages would appreciate the combination of interacting content and purely observational substance. There were a few games that were available to play. One of them was a ship steering wheel that let you chase the ships that were smuggling alcohol. Another one of the games determined if you would have been considered “wet” or “dry”. The other game was a trivia style game that tested you on what would have been considered illegal back in the era of prohibition.
The exhibit thoroughly rationalized the fight between the “dry” and the “wet”. It was exciting to feel like you were living in the years of 1920-1933. There was a place in the exhibit where you could get your mugshot taken along with some fellow outlaws.
The signs in the exhibit really made the era come alive. Not only were they information filled, but they were exciting to look at. There were flashing lights, flapper fashion, and bar setups. There was even a bathroom in the exhibit where women could learn about the powder rooms.
There were these vintage posters everywhere that gave information about alcohol abuse from back in the 20’s, and they were really on point with how people handle alcohol today.
Experiencing, in what felt like first hand, why the country decided to go dry and what resulted in this decision was incredible. In what meant to turn the country more moral and physically healthy ended up in increasing rates of crime, corruption, and mistrust within the nation.
Exploring in this exhibit really gave an interesting feel of how it was during the period of prohibition. It all led up to the 21st Amendment in 1933, when the ratification went through. By this time, America was changed. The end of the exhibit was set up like a movie theater, and there was a black and white film reviewing everything about the problems with prohibition.
Overall, American Spirits was a success. There was so much more interaction than expected, and it would definitely be interesting to all ages.
About the Writer…
Haley Brink is a Sustainable Business major with minors in communications and writing. She is passionate about the environment and how she can make an impact on the way people treat the world they live in. She someday hopes to learn to photosynthesize. She also enjoys attempting to recreate foods she finds on Pinterest.
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