What's Going On?—California and the Vietnam Era
August 28, 2004-February 27, 2005
For press information see www.museumca.org/press/
“ We’re still trying to reconcile ourselves with what happened in Vietnam.”
--Stanley Karnow, “Remembering Vietnam,” The NewsHour, PBS, April 5, 2000
Combat troops embarking for Vietnam from the Bay Area Military Ocean Terminal, Oakland Naval Supply Center, March 21, 1966. Collection of Oakland Museum of California.
The Vietnam War inflamed a social divide that evolved into unprecedented cultural and political movements on the West Coast and in turn redefined America. In What's Going On?—California and the Vietnam Era, the Oakland Museum of California explores the impact of the Vietnam conflict on California life and culture.
The 7000-square-foot exhibition includes more than 500 historical artifacts, photographs and documents interwoven with film clips, music, and oral histories, many contributed from veterans and former refugees. The exhibition covers the period from the Cold War of the 1950s to the present, with emphasis on the decade from President Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965 through the war's end, in 1975.
A long way from home, Pfc. Clairborne L. Shaw of Oakland at Chu Lai, Vietnam, June 4, 1966. Oakland Tribune Collection, Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers.
During that period California was the epicenter of the war’s national front. Within its boundaries were most of the nation’s defense contractors, principal military centers from which troops were trained and transported, centers of legendary peace and anti-draft protests, the vanguard of the New Right politics ushered in by Reagan’s election in 1966, and the portal for most of the returning military and Southeast Asian immigrants.
This landmark exhibition reflects four years' planning by the museum and includes an extensive oral history collection developed by the curatorial staff with participants from the Vietnam years. Veterans groups, activists, government agencies, and immigration centers were involved in the collection of artifacts, with assistance from the museum’s advisory committees and a Southeast Asian Community Advisory Committee formed specially to support the exhibition. The University of California Press will release a companion book, What’s Going On?—California and the Vietnam Era, in conjunction with the exhibition’s opening.
The show is arranged chronologically into 11 sections:
1950s—Nation on Edge: After World War II, Americans lived in fear of the nuclear bomb and the spread of Communism, threats posed most directly by the Soviet Union.
1960-1964—Activism Takes Root: In the early 1960s, California cultivated every sort of grassroots activism, as people voiced their opinions on causes from free speech to farm labor, and civil rights to Communism.
1965—Point of Departure: The official entry of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam in 1965 gave grassroots activists a new focus for the skills honed in earlier protests.
1966—Widening Social Divide: In 1966, two opposing views of the war hardened into the “hawks,” defenders of the country’s actions in Vietnam, and the anti-war “doves.”
1967—The Draft Hits Home: With the increase of the draft in 1967, the war took on a greater and more personal significance, while protests shifted from mostly peaceful opposition to increasingly violent resistance.
1968—Year of Dissent: As social unrest rocked the nation, one pivotal year shifted the majority of public opinion against the war for the first time.
1969-1972—Protest Gets Personal: Confrontation over the expanding war touched every social and political nerve, as protest engaged a widening array of people.
1973-1975—Point of Entry and Return: After the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam and regime changes throughout the region, California was one thing that the battle-weary veterans and Southeast Asian refugees had in common.
Scripting War: What many people remember of the Vietnam War era comes not from the war itself but from Hollywood’s portrayal of it.
1980s—Everything’s Changed: In the 1980s, Americans were eager to put the conflict in Southeast Asia behind them, but they continued to feel its effects.
Today—An Era Remembered: The Vietnam era continues to impact California and the country.
What's Going On?
Programs and Events
What’s Going On?—California and the Vietnam Era begins its six-month run on August 28, 2004. The exhibition will provide audio guides in English, Vietnamese, and Spanish. Special discount rates for both school and community groups are available; call 510/238-2200 for details. The exhibition is made possible with generous support of the Oakland Museum Women’s Board; the National Endowment for the Humanities; The James Irvine Foundation; The Clorox Company Foundation; and the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Oakland Museum of California is devoted to the environment, history and art of the state. The museum is located at Oak and 10th Streets in downtown Oakland, one block from the Lake Merritt BART station and four blocks from Highway 880. Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. the first Friday of the month.
Special admission for What’s Going On?—California and the Vietnam Era is $13 for adults, $9 seniors and students with ID, free for children five and under. Admission to the exhibition is $5/$4 seniors the second Sunday of the month. For more information, call 510/238-2200 or visit the museum web site at www.museumca.org.
The museum is not providing curriculum support of What’s Going On? for primary grades and does not recommend attendance by children.
Questions regarding the exhibition can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For press information see www.museumca.org/press/
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