Smithsonian Exhibit Details Ancestors' View Of The Future



It's the 21st century. By now, as predicted by our ancestors, we should all have personal jetpacks and household robots. We should have relatives living on Mars, or at least the moon. And, we should have met aliens by now.

As wondrous as technology has made the world we live in, it falls short of what our ancestors predicted it might be. And that vision, depicted in a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, is coming to your very own Payson Public Library.


This "City of the Future" by Frank R. Paul appeared on the back cover of Amazing Stories magazine in August, 1939. Paul's vision, and others from past generations, will be featured in a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, "Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future" at the Payson Public Library from Monday, June 21 through Sunday, Aug. 1.

"Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future" will be on display in the library meeting room for six weeks, Monday, June 21 through Sunday, Aug. 1.

"Basically it's what people of the late 1800s, early 1900s predicted life would be like today, and it covers economy, transportation, architecture, and more," Margaret Jesus, assistant library director, said.

Besides providing a vision of the present through the eyes of the past, the exhibition also says a lot about what our predecessors considered important.

"Through images of ray guns, robots, nuclear-powered cars, and the Atom Bomb House, ‘Yesterday's Tomorrows' examines how visions of things to come reveal the values and beliefs of the people who created them," according to an exhibit guide for teachers produced by the Utah Heritage Foundation.

For example, a robot created by Westinghouse that is featured in the exhibit sings, dances and even smokes cigarettes.

"Yesterday's Tomorrows" is divided into five, three-sided kiosks. The displays are organized as follows:


Side 1 -- How Do We See the Future?

Side 2 -- Robots and Automation

Side 3 -- Application of Automation Today


Side 1 -- What Does the Future Look Like?

Side 2 -- Media and Visions of the Future

Side 3 -- Advertising the Future


Side 1 -- The Homes of Tomorrow

Side 2 -- The Built Environment

Side 3 -- Making Your House Work for You


Side 1 -- The Future of Transportation

Side 2 -- Futuristic Cars

Side 3 -- Better Ways of Getting Around


Side 1 -- Communities of the Future

Side 2 -- Worlds of Tomorrow

Side 3 -- Planned Communities of the Future

"Yesterday's Tomorrows" and three other traveling exhibits comprise the Museum on Main Street program and are co-sponsored by the Smithsonian and individual state humanities councils (in this state by the Arizona Humanities Council). The other traveling exhibits are "With Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Homefront, 1941-1945," "Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon," and "Key Ingredients: America by Food."

In March 2001, "Yesterday's Tomorrows" embarked on a five-year tour that will take it to 150 small towns in 25 states. It is coming to Payson from Thatcher, and will go from here to Williams.

"Their goal was to bring the Smithsonian and their exhibits to rural communities so that people who can't go back to see it in the big museum can enjoy the exhibits," Jesus said. "It is touring 12 Arizona cities over a two-year period."

The Payson Public Library is planning a series of programs and events that will be tied to the exhibit. Two that are already finalized include:


Participants, ages 8 to 16, are asked to draw or paint their visions of the future -- life in the year 2075. Entries can be no larger than 11x17 inches Cash prizes for the top three entries are $50, $25 and $10. Entry deadline is 5 p.m. June 25 at the front desk of the Payson Public Library.


The day begins with a baseball game between town employees. Ice cream and cake follows, and the event concludes with a tour of the exhibit.

"We've also incorporated it into our summer reading program," Jesus said.

A speaker program is also being planned.

"We'll also have some speakers, including one who worked on the space shuttle," Library Director Terry Morris said.

Details of other special events will be released as details are finalized.

"Yesterday's Tomorrows" is free to the public, and is open the same hours as the library: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.