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The Cultural Revolution: ‘Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times’

Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times is one of the few museum exhibits to examine the tumultuous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which shook China from 1966 to 1976. Based upon a collection made by David J. Davies in 2001, the exhibit ran at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle from January to March, 2002, at the Maxey Museum at Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA, from March to May, and at the University of Oregon in November, 2002.

Ordinary Life is the first exhibit in the United States to show both the political paraphernalia of the time–Red Guard armbands, flags, and Mao badges–and the objects of everyday life, from rice bowls and a chopstick holder to utility bill receipts, a radio, and a cigarette lighter.

The physical exhibit is organized around 9 panels, each dealing with a different phase or aspect of the Cultural Revolution, and containing objects and pictures from that time. In an online rendering of the exhibit, you can click to see each panel with its accompanying text, and within each panel section, click to see and read about some of the most interesting objects in that section. When you are finished, the university invites you to share your thoughts in its discussion space.

Begin your online tour at here–but please, refrain from talking and picture taking so as to not disturb other museum-goers.

October 2003

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