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Home is where the heart is

Each year, dozens of interns find a home at the museum.  As an intern in the New Media Program this summer, I have assisted with the development and launch of this blog. In the coming weeks, a new series, “Intern Perspectives,” will feature blog posts written by my fellow interns about the ways we are learning from museum staff and contributing to their work.

Interns Lara Billet, Katie Munn, and Katie March
Interns Lara Billet, Katie Munn, and
Katie March review possible props
and scripts for the Letters Home

“Letters Home” is one of the exciting new visitor programs that will be introduced when the museum reopens in November. This interactive tour will take visitors through The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition while presenting correspondence to and from soldiers involved in various conflicts. Here’s what Office of Public Programs intern Katie March had to say about what she’s learned this summer while helping to create the program:

I think the reason why so many students say they don’t enjoy history is because they haven’t experienced the subject like I have. I’m not the biggest military history buff but reading these letters has given me a new interest in the lives of the soldiers, nurses and other individuals who have served our country.

Four interns, including me, have spent a great deal of time reading hundreds of letters spanning centuries. Every letter impacts me differently. I’ve read letters that literally made me laugh so hard I cried, letters so sad I sat at my computer with tears streaming down my face, letters that made me proud to be an American, and letters that made me reconsider some of our country’s military actions. These letters show raw emotion, depicting what the writers were thinking during pivotal and perilous times in our nation’s history. They remind me why I love studying history: because of the personal stories of people just like you and me.

If you want to read some of the letters, check out War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars (Scribner, 2001), a collection of 200 previously unpublished letters edited by Andrew Carroll. Better yet, come see the program “Letters Home”—it debuts this November and runs on weekends through the winter. Additional weekday presentations will start up in late March 2009.

Here is another interesting thing I learned: Did you know that the “scarlet scourge” was a major setback to the production of V-Mail (or “Victory Mail,” a WWII mail service that microfilmed messages for expedited and less bulky dispatch)? Because so many women kissed the letters they were sending, the build-up of lipstick on the photographic machines caused them to gum up and create gray blotches on the final prints.

Calvin Cohen is an intern with the New Media Program.