Everyone’s Favorite Monsters, Superheroes and Villains Invade the Hjemkomst Center

The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County will soon exhibit a collection of vintage supernatural toys and media called America’s Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains: Our Culture at Play. A free opening reception is scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Hjemkomst Center on Tuesday, October 1.

A title banner for America’s Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains: Our Culture at Play featuring an Aurora model of Universal Studios’ Bridge of Frankenstein (Stephen Zerby)

Using more than 350 toys, models, posters, advertisements, TV commercials and movie trailers, America’s Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains: Our Culture at Play charts 60 years of America’s favorite cultural icons, exploring American history through a lens not frequently used by museums and scholars. As a result, the exhibition offers a nostalgic and visual survey of the characters and stories that helped shape American identity in the 20th century, drawing lines from Universal Studios’ Dracula and Frankenstein to the births of DC Comics’ Batman, Marvel Comics’ X-Men, and Lucasfilm’s Darth Vader.

However, America’s Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains does not just offer a nostalgia trip or pop culture timeline; it also offers an insightful look at our nation’s emerging creativity and ideals in the 20th century. As the creators point out, for many Americans it is in superheroes and villains and monsters that we first start to form the visions of who we are and who we are not. With section titles that include “Innocent Monsters,” “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” and “Unintended Consequences,” the exhibition uses these pop culture icons to explore heavy subject matter, including the Cold War arms race, the rapidly accelerating possibilities of science and technology, and America’s portrayal of women and people of color in our popular media.

The exhibition was developed by SuperMonster市City!, a Minneapolis organization led by curator/director Stephen Rueff and master collector David Barnhill. The two met in Minneapolis as children and bonded over toys, comic books and horror movies. Those passions extended into adulthood, leading Barnhill to a degree in American film history and one of the largest private toy collections in the United States, and Rueff to a career in arts and academia, including his current position as Professor and Chair of Arts Entrepreneurship at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Now the two point to Barnhill’s enthusiasm and Rueff’s critical eye as the driving force of SuperMonster市City!’s success exhibiting their collection, which they’ve now shared at the Minnesota History Center, the Goldstein Museum of Design, and the Duluth Depot.

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America’s Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains: Our Culture at Play

Opening Reception
Tuesday, October 1 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m
Hjemkomst Center’s 4th Floor Gallery

The opening reception on Tuesday, October 1, will be held in the Hjemkomst Center’s 4th Floor Gallery from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Stephen Rueff and David Barnhill will lead a guided tour at 6:00 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to attend in costume.

A supplemental panel exhibition from HCSCC will explore prominent monsters from the Red River Valley’s own folklore, including the Vergas Hairy Man, Krampus and the Horace Mann Elephant.

For more details or questions about accessibility and accommodations, please visit HCSCC’s website at www.hcscconline.org or contact HCSCC Communications Coordinator Davin Wait at (218) 299-5511, ext. 6733, or [email protected].