An archaeologist unearths the remains of iconic modern hippie commune, and finds—in a pile of melted, warped LPs—that even recent historical memory is clouded by stereotype and distortion.
Jon Mooallem's Pacific Standard story is available to subscribers—in print or digital formats—now, and will be posted online in full on Wednesday, September 17. Until then, an excerpt:
There were toothbrushes and incense holders and jewelry and shoes. But it was the Chosen Family’s record collection that surprised and enthralled Parkman most. Most of the LPs he found were warped beyond recognition, but over the last four years he’s managed to identify 93 of them. There’s some of what you’d expect from a seminal late-’60s commune: Vanilla Fudge, Rubber Soul, Bob Dylan. But Parkman found many others that upended that stereotype: Judy Garland; My Fair Lady; Burl Ives; Dean Martin; and My Name Is Barbra, Two, by Barbra Streisand.
In a recent paper in the journal World Archaeology, Parkman argues that this odd variety challenges our clichéd image of ’60s hippies, “reminding us that people are a complex and diverse lot and that broad stereotypes are typically unfounded.” The Chosen Family was a collection of individuals, each with a different pre-hippie history. The music collection, Parkman told me, reminds us that we never quite shed identities, but layer new ones over the old—in a flow of personal history.
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