Yesterday's Tomorrows

Teachers and Educators!

Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future offers a unique history of popular expectations and beliefs about the shape of things to come. Curators Joseph Corn of Stanford University and Brian Horrigan of the Minnesota Historical Society use manifestations of popular culture such as toys, books, movie stills, World ’s Fair memorabilia, car designs, advertisements, and architectural designs to examine ways that Americans of yesteryear have envisioned our collective future. Adapted from an exhibition originally produced in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Yesterday’s Tomorrows is designed especially to meet the needs of small museums.

The exhibition concentrates on the past one hundred years in America, when visions of the future have fluctuated between secular utopias characterized by breathtaking leaps of science and technology and urban chaos fraught with danger and disintegration. Though many of the predicted futures never came to pass and seem naïve from our 21st-century perspective, other visions still challenge our concept of the future — like personal flying machines that strap to one’s back or cars that can be transformed into airplanes in just a few minutes.

Reading Lists

Want to know more about the America of the future, as imagined in the 20th century? Check out this complete listing of books and other materials for adults, children, and everyone in between!
» All ages reading list

Lesson Plans
Get the scoop on all the ways you can teach American history with these "futuristic" lessons compiled by "The New York Times" learning network.
» Lesson plans (Grades 6-12)

Teacher's Guide
Created especially for the Yesterday's Tomorrows exhibition, the full teacher's guide goes in depth to explore this interesting topic in American History.
» Full Teacher's Guide

Scavenger Hunt
The exhibition may be over, but this scavenger hunt helps you get ideas about turning objects and history into search and find adventures. » Scavenger Hunt