New LBJ exhibit showcases Vietnam War

Brendalys Lebron

At a new exhibit in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, students can place themselves in the former president’s shoes as he decides the fate of our country.

The model of LBJ’s desk is part of the exhibit “Vietnam: Evidence of War,” which opened early this April and will run through July, organized by the Briscoe Center for American History. The exhibit examines the Vietnam War through a wide array of documents and materials from the era, such as letters, television scripts of TV broadcasts, photographs and medals.

Benjamin Wright, assistant director of communications at the Briscoe Center, said this is a great opportunity for students to examine one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history.

“[We want to] not only educate them about one of the most tragic and divisive wars in American history but also give them an opportunity to educate themselves through their own analysis of the materials on display,” Wright said. 

Kathryn Kenefick, library assistant at the LBJ library, said the exhibit’s wide variety of documents and materials come from the LBJ’s archives.

“[The exhibit contains] numerous photograph collections from esteemed photographers such as Durkholstead … testimonials from soldiers writing home from the war … and national news articles, all pulled from our archives to display primary source evidence of what was happening during the war,” Kenefick said.

Government sophomore Kay Harden, who visited the exhibit with her undergraduate studies first-year signature course, said she liked the interactive aspects because they helped her relate to historical figures.

“I thought it was pretty amazing because it puts you in the place of LBJ: … what he was looking at when he made the decision [about Vietnam],” Harden said.

In addition to students and other members of the general public, many Vietman War veterans also visit the LBJ Library. 

“[Vietnam veterans] are still healing, and they like to still reconnect with other Vietnam vets for that reason. … I think this exhibit gives them that opportunity,” Cheryl Taylor, a docent at the LBJ Library, said.

Wright said that ultimately, visitors should decide for themselves how they feel about the Vietnam War.

“The point of the exhibit is not to provide a narrative of the Vietnam War but to present evidence of the war — hence the name — that allows students, and the whole UT community as well as the public to make up their own minds, to come to their own conclusions,” Wright said.