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Revamped military heritage exhibit to debut
Local Vietnam vets help GS grad student put war in focus
Breana James 1.jpg
Breana James, who led in creating the renewed exhibit on local military history, speaks to the Bulloch County Historical Society. (AL HACKLE/staff)

Opening Tuesday, the updated Bulloch County's Military Heritage exhibit will feature new material on the Vietnam War and upgrades to the overall physical display in the County Annex, as well as a new online presence geared to students and teachers.

The April 30 debut exhibition, slated for 5:30–

7 p.m., is free and open to everyone. This will be the third incarnation of the exhibit in the county commissioners' annex at 115 N. Main St.  It occupies an area inside the annex's north entrance, behind the carport-like structure. 

The display there will now be entitled "Community and Conflict: Bulloch County's Military Heritage." Meanwhile, the website, whose domain name has not been revealed yet, will be "Waging War: Where U.S. and Bulloch History Meet," Georgia Southern University graduate student Breana James told the Bulloch County Historical Society on Monday.

"It's called Bulloch County's Military Heritage, and we really want it to be the premier project that examines the connection between Bulloch County's history and the American military experience," James said.

For James, who already holds a bachelor's degree in history from Georgia Southern, the military heritage exhibit was her culminating project before she receives her master's degree in history and certificate in public history next month.

Noting that the exhibit, maintained by the Georgia Southern Museum, has been reworked or expanded more than once, she said she was "really just the next person that got to take a stop on it and work on it a little bit more."

The exhibit was last redone in 2012.

Vietnam in focus

For the 2018–19 update, James consulted with Dr. Brent Tharp, the GS Museum director who is also now the county Historical Society president, to choose the Vietnam War as the focus.

Past additions to the exhibit highlighted World War II and the Global War on Terror.

"But with so many anniversaries coming up with major battles and events of the Vietnam War, I thought it was great timing to be able to commemorate the people that fought and died during that war, as well as recognize some of those things that are going on," James said.

Her call for artifacts and stories from the Vietnam War was publicized by the Historical Society through a flier and in the Statesboro Herald last fall.

Six local veterans showed up for the open house that James, fellow GS history graduate and undergraduate students and faculty curators held Nov. 27 at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. But another dozen or so Vietnam veterans and veterans' surviving family members contacted James afterward, she said.

Veterans shared

Several contributed artifacts, such as "uniforms, draft cards, medals, letters" for display.

"But I'll keep some of those under wraps now, too, so you guys still want to go by the exhibit," James told Historical Society members.

One photo revealed in her slide presentation showed a "Welcome Home Jon Middleton" message on the marquee of the old Statesboro Holiday Inn behind Middleton, as a soldier returning during the war 50 years ago.

James interviewed eight veterans or veterans' surviving family members for oral histories. Her transcriptions of the oral histories have been donated to the GS Museum so that they will be available for future research.

Short presentations from the oral histories were also incorporated into the planned "Community and Conflict" physical exhibit. An electronic tablet is being installed so that visitors "can swipe through and learn about people who served" either on the home front or deployed to Vietnam, she said.

The wall-mounted portion of the exhibit includes nearly a dozen panels about Bulloch County's relation to wars from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. Rolls of Honor, which list Bulloch County residents who died in conflicts from World War I until the present, have been updated from 2012 and redone as engraved plaques, James reported.

Zee Doehling, a Georgia Southern senior majoring in graphic design, did the design work for the panels. Students and staff will do the final installation this weekend and maybe Monday, Tharp said.

Guides for teachers

As another part of her project, James created a set of teaching guides, the "Bulloch County's Military Heritage Educator's Guide." She developed a guide for teachers of eighth-grade Georgia history, another for teachers of high school U.S. history, and a third for college-level history courses.

James also designed the "Waging War: Where U.S. and Bulloch History Meet" website with classroom use in mind. She created it using a program that builds timelines so that all of the information from the physical exhibit would appear in the timeline. Students can click their way through, from the item noting that the county was named for Revolutionary War veteran Archibald Bulloch to how the most recent wars have affected the community.

"It helps students really see chronology well and to see cause and effect, which are literacy standards at both the middle school and the high school level," she said. 

James attended the Historical Society meeting with her husband, Charles James from Brooklet, who is now serving in the U.S. Army.

"So I have a personal connection to the topic I got to work with this year, and that may be a little personal for you guys, but this topic is a very personal topic," she told the group.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.