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Vietnam War Protest Posters Teach History

-- Exhibition at Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, from Nov. 12 to Dec. 21, Includes Vietnam War Film Series and Other Public Programs --

FLUSHING, NY, October 26, 2012 – Posters as History, Politics, and Art: Teaching with Primary Sources, opening on Monday, November 12 at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, will display over 30 Vietnam War protest posters from the museum’s permanent collection as well as photographs and archival materials from the Queens College Archives. The exhibition demonstrates how art can be used as a dynamic device to teach and bring history and politics to life for students and public audiences alike. At the same time, alumni who donated and created the posters will return to celebrate the college’s 75th anniversary and recall their experiences during the Vietnam War years.

Bold design and strong messages make posters an ideal medium for examining aesthetic, social, political, and philosophical perspectives. Posters document the many voices, organizations, and moods of this revolutionary and turbulent period in American history. Organized by GTM director and curator Amy Winter, QC Professor Michael Krasner (Political Science) and Jack Zevin (Secondary Education), and Townsend Harris High School (THHS) Assistant Principal Susan Getting, the exhibition was curated by 300 THHS honors students, who researched and wrote texts about the posters. Photographs and printed materials from the college archives, donated by alumni active in student organizations, rallies, and other activities on and off campus during the 1960s and ‘70s, accompany the posters.

The project began with a grant, awarded by the Library of Congress to the Taft Institute for Government at QC to teach history and political science using the posters as primary sources. GTM, QC, and THHS educators led student teams in the choice and interpretation of posters, using supplementary primary sources like historical and popular materials from the museum and Library of Congress online collections to augment the installation. These materials and the posters have been digitized to develop a website with curricula for student and teacher use, and a CD for local and national distribution. Alumni and audience interviews about the era will also be included on the website/CD.

As noted by exhibition organizers  Krasner and  Zevin: “This exhibit is a prime example of the Taft Institute’s commitment to developing curricula that employ active learning to increase civic awareness and promote informed citizenship. Only through critical engagement with both historical and current events can students gain the skills to make democracy work.” 

GTM director and curator Amy Winter commented, “The museum has worked on many projects with the Secondary Education Department to further our core educational mission to teach with objects. Art not only cultivates greater expression and literacy, but heightens cultural and social awareness. It is an unparalleled tool for stimulating discussion and debate of important issues.”

Numerous free programs—all open to the public--include an Alumni, Family and Friends Evening, an Educators’ Evening for local NYC teachers about the use of art and digital materials for online curriculum development and a film series. Ongoing programs at the GTM include K–12 class visits, gallery talks, and tours.

The opening reception on Thursday, November 15, will be a homecoming for alumni, hosted by poster and archival materials donors Mark Levy (’64) and Wally Rosenthal. An illustrated talk by Dr. Mark Podwal (’67), another donor whose posters are featured in the exhibition, will discuss his work and how his career as a well-known illustrator for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other major publications began at this time. An open-mic session will invite other alumni to speak and share their memories of the era. The program will be followed by refreshments and dancing to the music of the 1960s and ‘70s. The public is cordially invited.
Thursday, November 15, 6-8 pm
Dr. Mark Podwal, QC alumnus (‘67) and poster artist and illustrator, will discuss the creation, context, and motivation for his posters, which are on view in the exhibition.
Wednesday, November 28, 6-8 pm
Open house for educators with a roundtable featuring Jack Zevin (QC Secondary Education), Michael Krasner (QC Political Science), Rikki Asher (QC Secondary Education - Art), Susan Getting (Townsend Harris HS, History,) and Amy Winter (GTM Director), discussing the project and curriculum development.
FILM SERIES:  Once Upon a War
Mondays,12:15-1:30 pm. Film introductions and Q&As by Amy Herzog (QC Media Studies) and other faculty follow the screenings.
The Vietnam War has impacted American culture and experience since the 1950s. Nowhere is this more powerfully represented than in cinema, as seen in this retrospective of independent and award-winning films:
Monday, November 19
Excerpts from Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), 108 min.
Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha
Excerpts from Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1998), 80 min.
Directed by Werner Herzog
Monday, November 26
Apocalypse Now (1979), 153 min.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Monday, December 3
Tropic Thunder (2008), 103 min.
Directed by Ben Stiller
Monday, December 10
Coming Home (1978), 127 min.
Directed by Hal Ashby
Monday, December 17
The Killing Fields (1984), 141 min.
Directed by Robert Joffé
Funding for Posters as History has been generously provided by the Library of Congress, Teaching with Primary Sources Grant Program, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Development Fund. Additional support has been provided by the Kupferberg Foundation, Queens College Department of Secondary Education, and the Friends of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum.
For further information, details about the exhibition and programs, or to schedule a tour, call (718) 997-4724 or visit the museum website at
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College
The mission of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum to preserve and present cultural objects for study by art students has grown over the last decade. Like its parent institutions, QC and CUNY, it advocates accessible, inclusive education through the liberal arts, using visual art and material culture as its vehicles. Professional and student-curated exhibitions draw on GTM’s permanent collection of over 5,000 objects from world cultures, dating from antiquity to the present. The breadth of these holdings allows presentations that serve the diverse communities of Queens, enlightening audiences about their own traditions and histories, those of other groups, and the American scene.

As the only encyclopedic museum in Queens—a part of the college’s Kupferberg Center for the Visual & Performing Arts—GTM introduces many individuals to art and artifacts they might not otherwise encounter. Digital displays, catalogs, websites, lectures, symposia, films, and tours interpret objects through interdisciplinary lenses.

Recent Kupferberg Center renovations now reveal a museum designed to serve audiences better with a visitor orientation area, state-of-the-art lighting, and rotating collection displays in the lobby. A new climate system will both preserve objects and permit GTM to enhance its shows with special loans. The complete Kupferberg project unifies the arts on campus with new signage and landscaping, giving the GTM and its partners a fresh presence as active and innovative entities in Queens and all of New York City.


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