Feature Exhibits

BOOM! Salem After WWII

Brigadier General Guy Denit’s uniform

The year 2020 marked the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War Two, an outcome that powerfully changed American life. To explore what happened locally after the soldiers came home, the Salem Museum announces a new feature exhibit, BOOM! Salem After WWII, that celebrates the boom times that Salem and the United States experienced from 1945 through 1952.

In Salem, the period started and ended with a BOOM—parades, programs, and community-wide celebrations! When victory was announced in 1945, all of Salem erupted with joy. Impromptu parades took place along Main Street, culminating in celebratory programs held at Municipal Field. A similar set of events, planned in advance this time, took place in 1952 when Salem celebrated its 150th anniversary. The whole town turned out for parades, historical performances featuring a cast of 500, and other activities that lasted for a week.

The Carver Boys Basketball Team wins the Tri-state Tournament

In between, Salem experienced a baby boom and a surge in students, growing demand for suburban housing, and a wide range of consumer goods available once more. New businesses opened and expanded up and down Main Street and all through the town. Some are still in operation, such as Medeco, Graham-White Manufacturing Company, and Maid Bess Garment Company (now Integrated Textile Solutions). Others now gone, but well remembered, included Tarpley’s, Valleydale, and the Lee-Hi Drive-in. Existing schools saw expansions, and two new schools—West Salem and South Salem Elementary Schools—were soon built.

Actor John Payne grew up in Salem

“This time period is when modern Salem begins to take shape,” said Alex Burke, the Salem Museum’s assistant director and exhibit designer. “It’s interesting to look back and see how this time period leads into the Salem we know today.”

The exhibit begins with a display of weapons and equipment that soldiers brought home from the war. Some notable figures from Salem’s history are featured: Brigadier General Guy Denit, who witnessed the Japanese surrender; 12-year-old Russell Gwaltney, national marbles champion; authors Elizabeth Gresham and Alfreda Marion Peel; Frank Chapman, Sr., town manager; and John Payne, the star of Miracle on 34th Street.

BOOM! Salem After WWII was made possible through the support of the William and Margaret Robertson Endowment.

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote, the Smithsonian has developed Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence. This detailed poster exhibition explores the complexity of the women’s suffrage movement and the relevance of its history to Americans’ lives today. The exhibition is on display at the Salem Museum through November 28, 2020.

The crusade for women’s suffrage is one of the longest reform movements in American history. Between 1832 and 1920, women citizens organized for the right to vote, agitating first in their states or territories and also, simultaneously, through petitioning for a federal amendment.

Based on the National Portrait Gallery exhibition of the same name, Votes for Women addresses women’s political activism, explores the racism that challenged universal suffrage, and documents the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibits the government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of gender. The exhibition also touches on the suffrage movement’s relevance to current conversations around voting and voting rights across America today.