On September 13th, 2014 the National Veterans Art Museum reopened its permanent exhibit The Things They Carried in a brand new gallery space meant to be more immersive for viewers.
The Exhibition: Inspired by Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, this exhibit serves as a visual companion that illustrates the narrative with fine art and photography from veterans that lived the stories in the novel. Much like the book, the exhibit explores the concept of storytelling and questions how one might share the story of the Vietnam experience. The exhibit takes as its central question “how to tell a true war story” and prompts viewers to consider their personal stories and contemplate how they might share their own narratives.
By literally incorporating the essential elements of storytelling: Who, Where, When, and What, The Things They Carried begins by chronicling the Vietnam conflict through first-hand visual accounts and descriptions. The exhibit culminates in the re-creation of an authentic Vietnam-era tented shelter to bring viewers into the intimate physical experience of sleeping, living and working in the field during that time.
With artworks and objects created and collected by over twenty Vietnam veteran artists, The Things They Carried also provides visual interpretations to viewers, illustrating the war by those who were there. This form of pictorial storytelling offers insights into the individual personalities of those who served, where they were in Vietnam both geographically and environmentally, and what the cultural climate of the time looked like. Representations and artifacts come together in The Things They Carried to offer an individuated and holistic presentation of the social and historical context of the Vietnam war.
With didactic guides and lesson plans that accompany the artwork and artifacts, visitors of all ages can gain a better understanding of “how to tell a true war story” as explored in Tim O’Brien’s book, as well as explore possibilities and benefits of personal storytelling.
Featured artists include László Kondor, Dean Sharp, Charles Shobe, William Myles, James McJunkin, John Hosier, Michael Harac, and Arthur Jacobs.