STEWARDING A LIVING COLLECTION: The National Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection

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ABSTRACT

This article concerns the archive of materials known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection (VVMC). It differs from previous work about the VVMC by focusing on the National Park Service (NPS) and its role in the Collection's perpetuation. Because the NPS has collected all of the objects left at the Memorial since the 1980s, they argue that they are the caretakers of a Collection curated by the public. However, I argue that their stewardship has given them an active role in the Collection's shape and size, making them the VVMC's coproducers. Here, I look at several important moments in the VVMC's early history, including the Memorial dedication in 1982, the VVMC's ratification in 1984, and the drafting of the VVMC management plan in 1986. I hope to not only re-insert the institution into the VVMC “equation,” but also to stimulate discussion about the merits and challenges of the publicly produced collection.

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