The Wonder Years Donates to the National Museum of American History

December 2, 2014

During a donation ceremony today, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History received a collection of objects from the Emmy and Peabody award-winning ABC TV series, The Wonder Years, which told the timeless story of growing up through the eyes of a young teenager, Kevin Arnold. Among the donated objects are 1960s-inspired wardrobe pieces worn by leading cast members, including Kevin Arnold’s (Fred Savage) iconic green-and-white New York Jets jacket, Karen Arnold’s counter-culture hippie wedding dress, Norma Arnold’s two-piece dress worn during the opening credits along with original scripts. Actors Savage, Jason Hervey, Josh Saviano, and Scilla Andreen, the show’s costume designer, will present the items to the museum to join its entertainment collection.

“The success of the The Wonder Years is its careful balance between drama and comedy,” said Dwight Blocker Bowers, the museum’s entertainment curator. “There is something wonderfully true about the show. They didn’t leave anything of the era untouched—they let the time period speak for itself.”

The show (1988–1993) was a personal coming of age story paralleled with America’s transitioning social awareness of Vietnam, the Black Power movement, free love, the hippie era and more. It fostered a sense of nostalgia, transcending generations, and quickly grew to be one of the most popular on TV. Awkward first crushes, teenage angst and troubles with friends, teachers and family are portrayed in a show that depicted more than just typical suburban life during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Critical accolades and awards followed: The show won 24 awards and was nominated for 70 more, including multiple Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. The series won a Gold Seal Award in the 1988 Parents’ Choice Awards, honoring excellence in programming for young people.

The acquisitions demonstrate how network TV used a show to look back at an era in American life through the perspective of the present. Each of the donated items demonstrates how The Wonder Years did just that, recalling the late 1960s and early 1970s through the culture of the era.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. It is currently renovating its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.