“In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a polished stone wall that bore only the names of war dead, opened to both controversy—and a flood of objects…today, the hundreds of thousands of objects visitors have left at the Wall shape its meaning as the living force of the war.”
—Anne Hilker and Alyssa Velazquez in Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place.

On Thursday September 27 from 6–8 pm, Bard Graduate Center Gallery welcomes local veterans, current service members, their families, and guests for a special Veterans Open House event. Guests will enjoy free admission, refreshments and a special walk through of the section of our exhibition, Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place, devoted to the objects left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the collection curator Janet Folkerts. Featured works in this section of the exhibition include army-issue woolen gloves, food rations, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Many of which have never before been exhibited. Following this walk through will be a conversation about the memorial and its making with writers James Reston Jr. and Kristin A. Hass.

Janet Folkerts serves as the museum curator for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial museum collection, a role that she has held for two years. Prior to her role as curator, Janet worked on the museum collection in a variety of other roles, including as an intern and a museum technician. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2009 with a B.A. in archeological anthropology and a major in history. Raised in a military family, Janet truly values her role in helping to preserve the stories of our nation’s Vietnam veterans. As the daughter of a US Army soldier, she moved many times in her early life, including living three years in Germany. From her early travels, she was inspired to study cultures and history in college. Her experiences eventually led her to this one-of-a-kind museum collection, which she has had the privilege to work with for nearly nine years.

James Reston Jr.
was an assistant to U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall (1964–1965) and served in the U.S. Army (1965–1968) as an intelligence officer. He was a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina (1971–81) and is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. Reston is the author of 17 books, three plays, and numerous articles in national magazines. His works of both fiction and non-fiction cover a wide range of historical and political topics. A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam Memorial is his latest book. Springing from the roots of his military service during the Vietnam War, the book tells the story of the five year battle between youthful Maya Lin, the winning designer of the Vietnam War wall in Washington and a determined group of veterans, led by ex-Virginia senator, Jim Webb, who opposed the design as insulting to veterans and tried to scuttle the choice.

Kristen A. Hass
is an Associate Professor in the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Hass is the author of Sacrificing Soldiers on the National Mall​ and Carried to the Wall. In Sacrificing Soldiers on the National Mall, she examines this war memorial boom, the debates about war and race and gender and patriotism that shaped the memorials, and the new narratives about the nature of American citizenship that they spawned. Carried to the Wall explores the restless memory of the Vietnam War and an American public still grappling with its commemoration. Hass contextualizes her study of this phenomenon within the history of American funerary traditions (in particular non-Anglo traditions in which material offerings are common), the history of war memorials, and the changing symbolic meaning of war.

Leading support for Public Programs at Bard Graduate Center comes from Gregory Soros and other generous donors.