- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - A wallet from a 1930 prom will be on display next to an invitation to Union Township High School’s 1912 prom.

Big fluffy dresses from the 1930s and 1960s will be next to suits with ruffles that were popular in the 1970s.

The Johnson County Museum of History will open its History of Prom exhibit on Friday.

Prom is touted as one of the must-do experiences for a teen and is known for fashion, glitter and, of course, photos.

People more than 100 years ago thought the same.

History buffs will be able to see dresses, suits and other prom accessories from 1912 to today.

Examining the historical elements of prom gives people a peek into multiple facets of pop culture, curator Theresa Koenigsknecht told the Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/1DEwvdR ).

Looking at proms allows historians to study clothing, dating rituals and music in a time period, she said.

“(Prom) is big and examines lots of topics,” she said. “People remember their dress, their date and whether they had an amazing time or a not-so-great time.”

The exhibit will use Johnson County artifacts to highlight what was going on socially in the country at the time, Koenigsknecht said.

The museum has spent years collecting the suits, gowns, shoes, invitations and other accessories that will make the exhibit. Most of the artifacts have come through people donating their or their deceased loved ones’ things to the museum. Employees and volunteers of all ages have donated their suits and gowns to be a part of the exhibit.

That has proved to be a treasure trove of how prom has changed over the years, Koenigsknecht said.

Among the treasures are programs from several high schools and Franklin College that outline the evening and a dance card, a card that women wore during balls and dances. Men would sign up for a dance time on the cards.

Curators for the museum got the idea for the prom exhibit years ago, she said.

Museums across the country have had exhibits on wedding dresses, and travelers can see the gowns of first ladies at the Smithsonian in Washington. But an exhibit that is all about prom is rare, Koenigsknecht said.

“A lot of places do wedding dresses, but no one else does prom,” she said.

Prom is a near universal experience for both younger and older people. Koenigsknecht said. Thus, she added, an exhibit highlighting the cultural ritual should appeal to just about anyone.

“Proms can appeal to different generations. It is something they will always remember,” Koenigsknecht said.

Bringing prom to the Johnson County Museum of History also is a way to attract a younger audience to the museum, she said. As part of that effort, the museum has started a young professional group.

Curators have blitzed social media, asking for photos of people in prom attire and teasing the exhibit with photos of dresses and staff members dressed up for their own prom.

And the exhibit is opening in conjunction with an adult prom, where people are encouraged to wear their vintage fashion to celebrate.

“This fits perfectly with the direction we have taken,” Koenigsknecht said.

Boutiques will set up gowns that are now considered fashionable outside the exhibit that highlights fashions from decades ago, she said.

Photos from proms that were just a few years ago will stand next to elaborate dances from the 1950s, Koenigsknecht said.

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