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May 20, 2004

Veterans History Project Collections to Be Featured in Library of Congress "American Treasures" Exhibition

Special Presentation "From the Home Front and the Front Lines" Opens May 24

The Library of Congress will feature materials drawn from the Veterans History Project Collection - part of its American Folklife Center - in the "American Treasures" exhibition in the Southwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C., beginning on May 24. The display will be on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, through Nov. 13.

"From the Home Front and the Front Lines" will expose visitors to the personal experiences of veterans who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War that are taken from firsthand accounts documented in correspondence, photographs, diaries, bound volumes and albums. Maps, flags and military papers are included in the exhibit as well, which will also include two audiovisual stations. One includes filmed recollections of veterans, and the other contains a compilation of feature film clips reflecting the film industry's interpretation of war and war experiences.

"Today's generation and future Americans have much to learn from those who served," said Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center. "As the nation pays tribute to the World War II generation, all are welcome to view the special presentation in the 'American Treasures' exhibition to experience a sampling of the personal stories of wartime service collected by our Veterans History Project."

The exhibition includes the stories and memories of veterans such as Charles S. Lamb, Patricia Seawalt and Joseph Brenner.

On active service with the American Expeditionary Forces between March 1918 and April 1919, Pfc. Charles S. Lamb, 6th Division, 1st Army, wrote 85 letters home to his father and mother while marching through the Argonne and Ardennes regions. These letters were organized, transcribed and donated to the Veterans History Project by his son, George Lamb.

Sgt. Patricia Seawalt, Soldier of the Year in 1982, served in the 101st Airborne Division during the Persian Gulf War. She was an oil analysis specialist, the only one within the military qualified to teach and perform oil analysis. She donated her collection of photographs and letters that detail the hardships as well as the triumphs of her wartime service.

The Brenner Collection consists of nine volumes of photographs and letters between Cpl. Jerry Brenner and his wife, Norma, over a three-year period, from December 1942 to December 1945. It is a World War II story told from two perspectives: that of a 24-year-old soldier, husband and father and a 23-year-old wife and mother struggling to raise their baby daughter while coping with problems on the home front.

The installation of the Veterans History Project materials coincides with the National World War II Reunion on the National Mall in Washington, May 27-30. The four-day event will include ceremonies and activities produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the American Battle Monuments Commission.

In three years the Library's Veterans History Project has collected more than 80,000 items from some 16,000 individual submissions. The Veterans History Project - through the volunteer efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals around the country - has become one of the largest national repositories of firsthand accounts of war. The project is one of the few nationwide oral history efforts that relies on volunteers rather than professional oral historians to collect stories and artifacts.

In October 2000 the U.S. Congress signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to create the Veterans History Project to collect and preserve the wartime memories of veterans and those who served in support of them during World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

In addition to "From the Home Front and the Front Lines," another exhibition currently on view at the Library of Congress that deals in part with World War II is "Churchill and the Great Republic," a major exhibition that has enjoyed record-breaking attendance since its opening Feb. 5. It will close July 10.

"Churchill and the Great Republic" explores the life and career of Sir Winston Churchill and emphasizes his lifelong links with the United States. Totaling 210 items from the vast collections of the Library of Congress, together with materials from the Library's partner in the exhibition, the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, England, the exhibition is the first comprehensive presentation of Churchill materials in the United States. Three of six sections in the exhibition focus on the World War II era.

The Veterans History Project, part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, is made possible by the generous support of the U.S. Congress, AARP (founding corporate sponsor) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 "to preserve and present American Folklife." The center incorporates the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established at the Library in 1928 as a repository for American folk music. The center and its collections have grown to encompass all aspects of folklore and folklife from America and around the world.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. It provides information and resources; engages in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assists members in serving their communities; and offers a wide range of benefits, special products and services for its members.

To learn more about the Veterans History Project, to submit your story online, or to view a schedule of panel presentations and other reunion activities scheduled over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, visit www.loc.gov/vets.

Additional information about the National World War II Reunion weekend can be found on the Web at www.folklife.si.edu, www.wwiimemorial.com, www.abmc.gov and www.washington.org/americacelebrates.

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PR 04-111
05/20/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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