Vietnam war symposium presents all sides of history
|"The Toymaker," Grady Myers, ink on paper National VIetnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.
One of the largest and most comprehensive symposiums on the Vietnam War opened this weekend at venues on the UNM campus.
“Vietnam: Voices and Visions Unfiltered” presents a public history of the Vietnam war, from all sides – through combat art, photography, personal correspondence, a speakers’ series, public panel discussions, films, courses and more. Several elements of the symposium will run through mid-January 2005.
Vietnam veteran and Albuquerque resident Brian McKinsey devoted the last three years to the project. He views it as a way to give people additional insight and knowledge about the nature of the war and its effects on everyone involved during those troubled times more than 30 years past. “People didn’t want to talk about the war back then. I didn’t acknowledge my own service until just a few years ago,” McKinsey said. “Now I realize that many of us in the Vietnam generation are ready to come to grips with that time. And new generations are hungry for information that goes beyond the rhetoric found in history books.”
McKinsey secured partial funding from two New Mexico Humanities Council grants and corporate and private contributions.
The project has several UNM campus components. “Vietnam Visions,” an exhibit at both the University Art Museum and Jonson Gallery, features art from the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago – the only museum in the world with a permanent collection focused on the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of its combatants.
“Vietnam Voices,” an exhibit at the Center for Southwest Research gallery in Zimmerman Library, features letters written home from soldiers serving in Vietnam. The letters were submitted by veterans or their families in a call for letters sent throughout New Mexico. McKinsey said that reading through the letters he sent home from Vietnam nearly 35 years ago reawakened feelings and fears about the war that had long been dormant.
“Letters home truly chronicle the day-to-day history of the war that soldiers wanted to share with their families and friends back home,” he says.
“Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the Other Side,” exhibited at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, comes from the National Geographic Society’s Explorer Hall Museum and features photographs taken by North Vietnamese combat photographers who documented their country at war with the French and Americans. Until recently, these photographs had never been published outside Vietnam.
“The Wall That Heals” is an outdoor exhibit featuring a half-scale replica of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. The exhibit travels throughout the country, and as part of “Vietnam: Voices and Visions Unfiltered,” it will be on display Nov. 19-22 at the Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque.
The “Vietnam: Voices and Visions Unfiltered” project will also bring to campus speakers like George C. Herring, author of “America’s Longest War,” and journalist Joe Galloway, co-author with Hal Moore of “We Were Soldiers Once …And Young,” the story of the 1965 battle of the Ia Drang Valley on which the recent Mel Gibson movie, “We Were Soldiers” is based.
In addition, the UNM Bookstore will host a series of author tours and book signings, along with an exhibit throughout much of the symposium with selected books, artifacts, maps, photographs and a guide to “suggested reading” on the Vietnam War. Local Vietnam veterans will also be scheduled to speak to the public about their experiences in Vietnam and upon returning home.