On November 3, 2018, the West Baton Rouge Museum will open a new exhibition from the National Archives, Picturing Nam: U.S. Military Photography of the Vietnam War. Photographs are a powerful part of our collective memory of the Vietnam War. Military photographers stationed in Vietnam took thousands of photographs that covered every aspect of the conflict—photographs that are now part of our National Archives. Their assignments sent them everywhere: the jungles and swamps, forward bases, hospital ships, rivers, and air bases. Unsanitized and uncensored, these indelible images give an intimate and ground up view of the war and those who fought it. This exhibit runs through January 6, 2019.
Picturing Nam is divided into three themes:
- Landscapes – Most Americans knew almost nothing about Vietnam before the war. Many soldiers, sailors, and airmen seeing Vietnam’s dense jungles, rugged mountains, murky swamps, endless rice paddies, and brown rivers for the first time must have felt very far from home.
- Objects – Wars are often summed up and remembered through artifacts. The Vietnam War created its own set of memorable objects, many of which appear in military photographs, including helicopters, M-16 rifles, graffiti-covered helmets, Phantom jets, peace symbol necklaces, and body bags. Additional objects on display are loaned to the West Baton Rouge Museum from local veterans, VFW Post 160, the USS Kidd, and the Museum of the American Military Family.
- Faces – War puts individuals into extraordinary and dangerous situations. Such circumstances fostered determination, anxiety, exhaustion, boredom, compassion, exaltation, and dread–feelings that are seen in the faces of those who were there.
Picturing Nam is organized by the National Archives and Records Administration, and traveled by the National Archives Traveling Exhibits Service (NATES). It is presented in part by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, AARP, and the National Archives Foundation.