Past and present

Last month, PBS debuted the highly-anticipated and critically-acclaimed documentary film series, “The Vietnam War,” directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Broken into 10 episodes and running 18 hours, the series offers nearly 80 interviews that present a variety of first-hand perspectives through archival footage, photographs, and recordings. The project, which took 10 years and $30 million to complete, is a must-see for anyone who wishes to gain additional understanding of this dark and divisive time in our history and its lasting impact on our veterans and later generations. PBS is currently offering streaming segments via its website and at times will be airing episodes throughout its fall schedule.

But there is something to be said for viewing a complex and heavy film like this together with our neighbors, where there is an opportunity to talk about what you’re viewing, hear others’ thoughts and stories, and learn from experts in a venue and institution that values historic and cultural preservation. Earlier this year, two members of Princeton Public Library’s programming team, Janie Hermann and Hannah Schmidl, applied for and were awarded a grant from the American Library Association to receive the series and screening rights, enabling the library to bring you this film in a shared viewing experience. We’ll be screening one episode per week, Wednesday mornings, starting in December and ending in February, skipping a week or two during the holidays. And with the help of funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Janie and Hannah are curating a top-notch series of programming, including guest speakers, photographic exhibits, and live performance to support further discussion of the film and the time period. More details to come later this fall, but you’ll want to keep your calendars open.

In the meantime, if you would like to expand your knowledge of the Vietnam War, try reserving our museum pass to the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan, which recently unveiled a new exhibit, The Vietnam War, 1945 – 1975. The exhibit features “such topics as the Cold War, the draft, military campaigns initiated by both sides, the growth of the antiwar movement, the role of the president, and the loss of political consensus.” Our pass will provide you with complimentary admission for 2 adults plus 4 children under age 18.  The Vietnam Era Memorial and Education Center in Holmdel is a local option; though we don’t have a museum pass for this institution, it’s a worthwhile trip to see the timeline exhibit, circle of letters, and more. Peruse this comprehensive list of online resources provided by the ALA Public Programs Office. And finally, check out our collection; we have many materials on the Vietnam War for you to borrow, including the print and audiobook companions to the film, and the DVDs of the film itself.

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