Public Museum lands Prohibition exhibit


The Grand Rapids Public Museum downtown presents the cultural and natural history of the region through three floors of exhibits and special programs. Photo via

On the heels of the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s “Thank You, BEER!” exhibit, it has confirmed it will bring in “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”

The exhibit will run from Sept. 25, 2015, to Jan. 17, 2016.

Tom Bantle, director of exhibits at the museum, said an agreement was signed with the National Constitution Center in late September. Prohibition banned most alcohol from 1920 to 1933 as part of the 18th Amendment, which was repealed with the 21st Amendment.

Bantle said while the current beer exhibit explains Grand Rapids’ craft beer history, the Prohibition exhibit will help visitors understand how prevalent alcohol is in society throughout the nation’s history.

“It’s an interesting topic with educational benefits,” Bantle said. “A lot of the text has good coverage of civics and law.”

The exhibit will house artifacts from the time period, including glass and artwork from Anheuser Busch, a re-creation of an early ’20s speakeasy, a replica of a Tommy gun, a variety of flasks, and various examples of how alcohol companies adapted to the times and were able to stay relatively profitable.

Bantle said the exhibit will show how some Americans found their way around the law, such as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which solved “female complaints” and was more than 20 percent alcohol.

The exhibit also will be interactive, with a video game created to explain bootlegging and the preventive measures set up against it.

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