Unusual collection from Vietnam Veterans Memorial reflects a unique war
Published: July 6, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. (CNS) -- Duery Felton Jr. calls them "icons." The religious articles gathered up each day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington are just a small part of the estimated 400,000 items left in honor of a veteran and collected twice daily by National Park Service employees since the memorial opened 30 years ago. But for Felton, curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection held at the Museum Resource Center in Landover, many of the items represent a mystery that will never be solved. He holds up a small cross on a pedestal. A piece of paper affixed to the bottom says the cross was made from square nails used to build the original St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Kasson, Minn., in 1873. But that doesn't answer Felton's many questions: Who left the item and for whom? What did the church mean to the veteran or the person who left the cross? "Most of the three-dimensional objects in the collection come with no explanation of what it is or what it means," he said. There is even a box of rocks left at the memorial on the National Mall. Felton isn't sure, but he thinks some veterans bring the rocks as a symbol that they have "put their burdens down" and left their bad memories of Vietnam at the memorial. "This is a collection unlike any other," Felton said. It is the only collection in which the public decides what will be included, the only one made up of items left by the living for the dead and the only one in which "the bias of what is worthy is taken out" of the curator's hands, he said.
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