"Teen Miami" at HistoryMiami Puts South Florida Teenagers in Historical Context

Teenagers get a bad rap. You know the stereotypes: the incessant eye-rolling, saying "like" or "whatever" with every breath, that smug, detached attitude towards everything. Justin Bieber isn't doing much good as far as maintaining a likeable image for the population of 13-19 year olds, either.

But hey, we were all teenagers once. We can all empathize with feeling ignored at school, unappreciated at home, and generally undervalued in society. And with HistoryMiami's upcoming exhibit, "Teen Miami," we'll all be empathizing a whole lot more. Like, woah.

It's high time Miami's teens have gotten some respect. After all, teens have been the enduring subject of bestselling books like Catcher in the Rye, and movies such as the '80s cult classic The Breakfast Club. Hell, some of history's most famous people made their names as teenagers; take Alexander the Great, who founded his first colony at 16, or Joan of Arc, who lead the French army to successful victories during the Hundred Years' War. (Beat that, Biebs.)

But history museums mostly praise the impact of adults in history. The exclusion of teen voices and experiences in museum exhibitions, collections, and archives have actually resulted in a noticeable disconnect between museums and adolescents. The result is a sad number of American teenage visitors to museums nationwide. Teenagers are people, too, you know.

The new exhibition at HistoryMiami addresses this disparity by making the local teenage perspective the focal point -- from the exhibition planning stages to the actual development process. In summer of 2010, HistoryMiami launched Teen Miami, a three-year research and collections initiative on the history of teen life and culture in Miami-Dade County. As part of the project, HistoryMiami brought teenagers from diverse backgrounds and high schools to intern at the museum to encourage them to engage in the history of Miami as it related to teens and develop content for the exhibition.

Opening September 23, "Teen Miami" explores teen life and culture in Miami through the decades. Learn how local adolescents were impacted by World War II and the Vietnam War, listen to the sounds created by local teen garage bands and R&B stars of the 1960s, examine the role teens played in integrating Miami's high schools, and get a kick at viewing the fashion statements made by teens through the decades. You'll probably notice that mustaches aren't just an ironic, au courant statement -- the average 14-year-old in the '80s also sported facial hair on his upper lip.

The exhibit's opening party on Saturday, September 22, will be stocked with burgers, shakes, and fries -- you know, teen food -- plus music by DJ Zelda and a teen lounge where cool kids can escape the oppressive embarrassingness of their parents. The party runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults and $7 for teens. RSVP by September 19 to 305-375-5356 or RSVP@historymiami.org.

"Teen Miami" is on view through June 16, 2013. Admission is free to HistoryMiami members and children under 6; $8 for Non-members; $7 for seniors and students with ID; $5 for Children 6-12. The Museum of HistoryMiami, 101 West Flagler St., Miami, 305-375-1492, historymiami.org.

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