This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Janet Folkerts
Dedicated in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become known across the country as the place to go to remember and honor those who died in the Vietnam War and to leave a token of remembrance. But what happens to those remembrances that are left behind?
In this presentation, Janet Folkerts, museum curator for the National Mall and Memorial Parks and the staff member charged with caring for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial museum collection, will share how the National Park Service preserves the thousands of items left at the memorial every year. She will outline the history of the collection and the procedures that have been developed to transfer the objects from a public memorial to a state-of-the-art collection storage environment. She will detail the difficulties and questions that arise when taking on a collection of “abandoned” objects – questions such as: how do we establish legal custody of these objects? What is the copyright status? How do we determine what was meant to be left and what wasn’t? What do we do when objects are damaged by the elements?
Finally, this presentation will share a few of the stories from the thousands of objects that have been left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including a piece of a Huey helicopter and a bicycle.
Janet Folkerts has worked for the National Park Service on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial museum collection since 2010 in a variety of positions, including her current role as the museum curator, which she has performed since 2016. Prior to her work with the National Park Service, she served on a team of archeologists from the University of Maryland performing excavations on 18th-century historic sites in Bladensburg, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2009 with a bachelor of arts in archeological anthropology and a major in history.