"Nostalgia -- it's delicate but potent," Don Draper intoned in his famous pitch for the Kodak account on "Mad Men," the '60s-set show that is the subject of a new exhibition (March 14-June 14) at Astoria's Museum of the Moving Image. An advertising genius, Draper knew the power of memory -- individual and collective -- to evoke emotional connections. Yet show creator Matthew Weiner knows nostalgia alone isn't enough -- and for all the period costumes, sets, music and everyday items on display, "Mad Men," which begins its final run of seven episodes April 5 on AMC, is about more than its decade's trappings.
Indeed, says exhibition curator Barbara Miller, the show is less about the turbulently transitional '60s themselves than it is of "universal ideas about desire [and] self-invention." To that end, the exhibition offers both period artifacts and what Miller calls "insight into the formulation of the ideas that are behind this show" about a poor man who took a dead man's identity and remade himself in an image both timeless and of the times.
Included are sets from the Drapers' Ossining kitchen of Seasons 1-4 and Don's Manhattan office of Seasons 4-6; a re-creation of the series' real-life writers' room; 33 costumes, including Megan Draper's "Zou Bisou Bisou" dress; and a collection of Weiner's notes, plus pages of his screenplay "The Horseshoe," where the character that would become Don Draper originated.
The two sets, says Miller, already were pieces of nostalgia when the exhibition came together: No longer on the show's soundstages, they had been disassembled for storage in a warehouse in northern Los Angeles. But with the aid of studio Lionsgate and others, they were trucked cross-country and rebuilt at the museum.
While a talk on March 20 by Weiner is sold out, the museum hopes to have him do another, says chief curator David Schwartz. In the meantime, attendees can view 10 films Weiner selected -- including "The Apartment," "Patterns" and "Blue Velvet," screening through April 26 -- that influenced the conception of "Mad Men" so much, says Schwartz, "The main people who worked on the show had to see those movies."
Likewise, those of us already nostalgic for "Mad Men" have to see this exhibition.