FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2009
Contact: Jennifer M. Guild, Senior Officer for Public Relations and Marketing
Tel: (804) 342-9665 | Email:
Pull Out Your POW Buttons, Tie-Dye T-Shirt, Afro Wig, Combat Boots, and Marvin Gaye Eight-Track
Vietnam War Era is the Focus of Three Exhibitions at the Virginia Historical Society this Summer
Richmond, VA—Imagine being a black Army soldier serving your country in the jungles of Vietnam knowing that when you return to the states, your life and culture will be in complete upheaval because of the Civil Rights Movement. Imagine being a Marine lying on a canvas bunk on a troopship with thousands of young men on a three-week journey to Vietnam. Imagine being shot down over Vietnam in 1966 and being a prisoner of war for seven years.
You do not have to imagine these situations—they will be presented at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) from June 6th to August 30th in three exhibitions about the Vietnam era: Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era, Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam, and Bring Paul Home: Phyllis Galanti and Vietnam War POWs. In addition, the society is offering free admission to all while the exhibits are on display this summer as a way to honor military personnel who served in the Vietnam War and their families.
"Just as everyone who lived through the Vietnam War era experienced it differently, these exhibitions explore diverse elements of that time," said James Kelly, VHS Director of Museums. "Bring Paul Home recounts the horrific experiences of POWs. Marking Time gives voice to the ordinary "grunts" whose views were seldom heard. Soul Soldiers reminds us of the paradox of black men fighting to give freedoms to others that they were denied at home. What the three exhibitions have in common is that they're all at the personal level, which visitors of all ages will be able to relate to."
Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era explores the issues, actions, reactions, and expressions of life and culture of African Americans as they were affected by the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Over 160 artifacts, photographs, audio recordings, songs, oral histories, and an original documentary on display in this award-winning exhibition show how events in the 1960s helped frame African American political and social perspectives that extended beyond civil rights. The roles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Colin Powell, Jimi Hendrix, and many others are explored, as well as the 9,000 women who served as nurses and in clerical and support positions during the war. At the end of the exhibition, letters to the families of MIAs provide a lens for understanding postwar reflections. Soul Soldiers is organized by the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam features a cache of Vietnam War soldier art of striking importance and poignancy. Soldiers and Marines on the ship USNS General Nelson M. Walker, bound for Vietnam in 1967, inscribed graffiti phrases and images on the bottom sides of canvas bunks in the troop compartments. Men wrote their name and hometown, the date they expected to leave the service, and kept day-by-day calendars to mark the progress of the voyage. Original graffiti-covered canvases, discovered in the process of scrapping the vessel in 2005, display messages of patriotism, politics, humor, anxiety, and love. Marking Time is organized by the Vietnam Graffiti Project out of Keswick, Va.
Bring Paul Home: Phyllis Galanti and Vietnam War POWs is based on the collection given to the Virginia Historical Society by Richmond resident Phyllis Galanti. Her husband, Paul, was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy when his plane was shot down over Vietnam on June 17, 1966. Galanti was a Prisoner of War (POW) until February 12, 1973. Pictures, letters, pamphlets, buttons, and posters from the donated collection show Mrs. Galanti's efforts, and those of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, to publicize the plight of POWs and to secure their release.
In addition to the physical exhibitions, the society is collecting personal stories from Virginia residents about their Vietnam era experiences via the VHS web site. The online submission form allows visitors to leave answers to questions such as "If you had to pick one song from the 1960s or 1970s to describe the entire Vietnam era, what song would it be and why?" and "What do you remember about the news coverage during the Vietnam War? Was it negative, positive, neutral?" "How did that affect your perception of the conflict?" The information obtained will be added to the society's collection.
Programming related to the exhibitions includes a talk on June 11 by Phyllis and Paul Galanti. Three gallery walks are scheduled: on June 17 Art Beltrone will showcase Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam; on July 8 Lauranett Lee will walk through Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era; and on August 5 Paige Newman will give a tour of Bring Paul Home: Phyllis Galanti and Vietnam War POWs. The VHS is also hosting a free family open house on Saturday, July 18. The event will feature 1960s and 1970s-related history and pop culture activities, crafts, games, music, and much more.
"These exhibitions will bring back a flood of memories and emotions from visitors, especially those who lived through the 1960s and 1970s," said Paul Levengood, VHS President and CEO. "It is the perfect opportunity for parents and grandparents to bring their children and grandchildren to learn about events that had a huge impact on American society and to share stories about what they remember about major shifts in politics and culture—and they can see it all for free."
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm
and Sunday 1 pm–5pm (Museum Galleries and Shop only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.