The University Libraries proudly presents “From Active Duty to Veteran: Honoring Military Service in America,” an exhibition of letters, maps, photographs, pamphlets, oral histories, posters, and ephemera from the Libraries’ special collections and government publications departments. Displays are located on the first and fourth floors of McWherter Library and will be on view until January 16. Click here for the Libraries’ hours.
The exhibition was the focus of a special Veterans Day lecture, “War, Peace, History, and Memory: Military Service in the American Experience,” presented by historian and cataloging librarian Dr. Mark Danley in McWherter Library. Danley, who helped choose materials from the collections to include in the displays, challenged our collective tendency to regard American military history as a narrative that merely “goes from war to war.” This simplified version of our experience, Danley argued, causes us to downplay the violence faced by our military personnel during other time periods of apparent peace (like the Cold War). He suggested as examples the continued casualties on the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean peninsula since 1953.
To illustrate his point further, Danley (a veteran himself) referred to a Press-Scimitar photograph from the Libraries’ special collections taken during the 1971 Veterans Day Parade in Memphis. The poignant image features a Spanish War, a World War I, and Vietnam War veteran standing together, hands clasped. He remarked, however, that even though that grouping was clearly significant, the photographer would likely not think it as significant to capture a meeting between a veteran of the Vera Cruz campaign in 1914, a veteran of the U.S. garrison in Shanghai in the 1920s, and a veteran of the Berlin garrison of the 1960s. The reasons why underscore the point that the reality of American experience with military service is more variegated than common public impressions convey. A question and answer session followed the presentation, which was the final event of the daylong campus celebration of the nation’s veterans lead by the U of M Veterans Resource Center.
Check back shortly to watch a video of Dr. Mark Danley’s full lecture.
In addition to the physical displays in McWherter Library, visitors can access a comprehensive online research guide for additional resources about the time periods covered in the exhibition. We thank the Friends of the University Libraries for their continued support of our exhibitions and programs.