Log in Subscribe
Barry Lewis

A vote for peace and love

Barry Lewis
Posted 2/3/23

The museum hits you fast, pulling you in so many directions, like a Kansas tornado.

Only you're not in Kansas anymore. Or in 2023.

Not even close.

Welcome to The Museum at Bethel …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Barry Lewis

A vote for peace and love


The museum hits you fast, pulling you in so many directions, like a Kansas tornado.

Only you're not in Kansas anymore. Or in 2023.

Not even close.

Welcome to The Museum at Bethel Woods.

Welcome to the 1960s.

Welcome to Woodstock.

Walk on the glowing peace sign, hear Richie Havens beat out another chorus of "Freedom" and see the big, black-and-white picture of farmer Max Yasgur standing in front of a microphone in his short-sleeve shirt with a dangling key ring. Smiling like a proud pop.

His words next to the picture, so simple and poignant:

"I think you people have proven something to the world; that a half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music."

Take a step and hear the Beatles. Another step and see a life-size Jackie Kennedy. Turn a corner and there's a display of 45s by Elvis, Dion and Bobby Vinton.

You start to think, "I bet I still have one of those 45s stored in the attic."

Look left and see Martin Luther King's march for civil rights. Now you hear King.

Now you hear President Kennedy talk of a "torch being passed to a new generation."

Now you hear “wait, yeah, that's Cousin Brucie.”

"Heeeelllloooo Cousins."

Is that Dr. Benjamin Spock?

Hear the Beach Boys.

Watch Batman.

Hear rain. And thunder. Is it raining? Oh, it's Woodstock rain. And Woodstock music.

Hendrix. Joplin. Cocker.

Hear them. See them.

See the sea of people on Max Yasgur's Bethel farm.

Push a button. Pick a year. Pick an artist. Pick a style of music. Hear the music.

See moccasins. A dashiki. A mod minidress. A pillbox hat.

Love beads.

You start to think, "I bet I still have one of those dresses stored in the attic."

That's when it really hits you about The Museum at Bethel Woods, which this year celebrates 15 years as one of the premier music museums in America, located on the 800-acre campus of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, one of the preeminent music venues in the country. It’s been nominated for USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards for music museums. 

The Museum at Bethel Woods doesn't tell the story of some ancient civilization. Show off foreign pieces of plaster. Try to impress with an impressionist.

It tells the story of your life. Or your kids' life. Or the life of your cousin or neighbor.

You'll be impressed that they got it all so right.

I saw the display of transistor radios and I swear I have the same one. Same color.

The collection of Led Zeppelin albums — I have that one.

Bet those were your boots.

Yeah, those were your pants.

And it seems that we all wore our hair that way.

If you weren't at Woodstock, didn't care for the music at Woodstock and still don't "get" Woodstock, not to worry.

You'll still walk through the museum feeling as if someone had rummaged through your old things and decided to show them off to the world.

Hundreds of artifacts, photographic murals and interactive displays compete with a never-ending multitude of projected sights and sounds and a 10-minute History Channel film to remind visitors of the turmoil and change that took place throughout the 1960s.

The Vietnam War. Women's rights. Civil rights. The assassinations, the Chicago convention. The walk on the moon.

It's all there.

But if you have even the slightest fondness for what I consider to be one of the most pivotal — social as well as musical — moments in the last century, then you will find yourself in Woodstock nirvana.

Letters from police agencies telling then-Sullivan County Sheriff Louis Ratner that they can't help him with riot control.

Voices of local folks like Barbara Hahn, who delivered antibiotics to the medical tents, and Leni Binder, who delivered stacks of sandwiches.

A piece of the fence that was supposed to keep 500,000 folks in order.

And the psychedelic bus that carried the Woodstock nation to Max Yasgur's alfalfa field.

This isn't history.

It's your life, transformed into a breathing photo album.

Come inside and start turning the pages.


CastYour Ballot

To vote for The Museum at Bethel Woods in USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards visit: https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-music-museum/the-museum-at-bethel-woods-bethel-new-york/

Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at      barrylewisscdemocrat@gmail.com.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here