Skateboarding On Display

What would the history of skateboarding look like in a museum? There are several ways to go, but I have some ideas that I think would show the significant aspects of the history behind skateboarding and its cultural influences in society.

A major transition in skateboarding occurred with the introduction of polyurethane wheels. Before Frank Nasworthy’s invention of urethane wheels for skateboards in 1972, most skate boards were simply boards with roller skate wheels, usually made of clay, fastened to the bottom. These were hard to control and dangerous to ride. Nasworthy’s wheels transformed the sport by giving skateboards more control over their boards and allowing for the low, smooth ride that has been dominate in skateboarding ever since.

A tactile display showing difference between the original clay wheels and the newer polyurethane ones would be interesting. People could actually touch the wheels and get an understanding of why the newer wheels were able to grip the ground better, giving the skaters better control.

Original wheels

Polyurethane wheels

As the sport itself matured, skateboards evolved, changing to reflect what was going on in the sport. Another interesting display could show the different evolutions of the boards along with a description of the major influences in skating when that board evolution was popular.

The evolution of skateboards.

Much of the success of the sport of skateboarding has been attributed to a few specific people, namely Zephyr and his skate team -> the most famous of which were Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams. A display that gives a brief description of the dogtown boys and the Zephyr skate team as well as their contribution to the sport would be a must in a museum exhibit dedicated to skateboarding.

Through the years different types of skateboards have come about. There are shorter boards that allow for more control and are used mainly for tricks. There are also long boards that are used more for speed instead of tricks. An interesting display could have each different type of board with a video display showing how that board is used.

A lot of this blog has covered the interplay between skateboarding and parks. A museum exhibit could easily cross into that by giving a section over to “the perception of space.” This could not only cover the role parks have played for skateboarders, but it could also brave showing the general public the skateboarders’ interpretation of space and architecture. It was mentioned earlier, in another blog, that Iain Borden, author of Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body, said “Skateboarders…first understood space as a pre-existent natural phenomenon…skaters responded to urban space in a more deliberate and substantive manner,” in reference to found public space. Borden’s views as well as many other views from within the skateboarding world could be included to create a unique perspective of space and how to interact with it. The contrast between “found space,” such as parking lots, town plazas or other public areas, and “constructed space,” such as skate parks, skate plazas, and private skate arenas, could be included in the display. Skater views concerning what the differences are and what their preferences are could be a great contribution.

I believe that the entire display should have a chronological order to it. As you walk in, you are introduced to the beginnings of skateboarding and how it became popular. From there you move on to the different evolutions of skateboards and what eras they belonged to. James Davis, author of Skateboarding Is Not A Crime: 50 Years of Street Culture, told of how the music of skateboarding evolved along with the sport. A background soundtrack that reflects the era in skate culture that Davis was talking about could help to bring that evolution home to that audience.

Just like in the last post, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have a lot of good ideas for something like this. If you have any ideas for a project of this sort, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂

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