Yesterday was the annual CMH family picnic, held on Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Lucky for us, there was great weather and a delightful breeze to take our minds off the heat. We had kayak races (interns versus the curators ~ we won!) and lots of food! The awesome part about my internship is how supportive and kind the employees of CMH are. They invited all of our families to join the picnic and gave free tours of the installation! Of course my dad being.. My dad.. He decided to bring an old family heirloom he’s always wanted to know more about. The family story was that it was a sword from the American Revolution that has been passed down for generations. Turns out, it’s not from the American Revolution BUT it does date back to sometime around the War of 1812! Rod Gainer, our Army Artillery Guru had lots to tell my dad. Rod claims that the handle of the sword is detailed with some kind of prehistoric bone! Possibly ivory? The sword is covered with intricate details hinting at it possibly being American made but by Germans. There are remnants of the original moleskin and it is in surprisingly good condition! When Dad asked about conserving the sword, Rod suggested that we leave it be since a lot of the original bluing still remains on the blade. Needless to say, Dad and I are very excited about our hidden treasure and don’t plan on selling it anytime soon.. Even though it’s valued somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000!
The NMUSA (National Museum of the United States Army) exhibits are planned to be chronological by gallery. Each gallery will cover a specific war or time period. Within the galleries, the exhibit cases will be arranged both chronologically and by topic. For instance, the ”Preserving the Nation Gallery” (Civil War) will follow a basically chronological arrangement with some specific topic exhibits dealing with advances in technology such as military medicine, arms technology, etc. Various themes are discussed within the exhibit cases. For the most part, a visitor will be able to follow the change over time through the selection of objects within the exhibit cases in each gallery — for example, the evolution of firearms technology, military material culture or communications.
This varies, depending on the artist, period, and how the program looked at the time.
In WWII, soldier-artists working under the official program typically returned their work (either through the mail or they hand-carried it) to a central location in Europe or the Pacific, depending on which was closer. Art was then reviewed by a committee and either accepted by the Army or rejected and returned to the artist. Before it even made it this far, however, it had to pass the War Department censors, which were typically most concerned with whether art portrayed details of secret technology or troop locations or movements that were still secret. The art that passed the censors and was accepted by the committee was sent to the US and directly accessioned into the collection. Because these artists were active-duty soldiers, most of them worked on paper – because it was easy to carry. While much of what we have is in remarkably good condition because the artists went to great measures to keep it safe, in some pieces you can see fold creases, stains, and other condition problems that are a direct result of being carried through a war. Some artists have written about losing their sketchbooks, art left in a tent destroyed during an attack, or having to abandon sketches in order to save themselves or others. Some art, of course, was initially produced in safer areas and thus had a safer journey to the collecting areas.
Other programs during WWII, such as the Life Magazine and Abbott Laboratories programs, used artists who were not active-duty soldiers. These artists had shorter tours in-country than the soldier-artists did, and while they generally made field sketches that they carried home, a lot of their finished work was completed later in a studio rather than on the spot.
The MSC also has a lot of sketches that were sent through the mail – often on ‘V-Mail’ mailing paper. A number of soldier-artist correspondents for Yank Magazine made their sketches on v-mail paper for easy mailing back to the Yank office. Other soldiers who were not official artists doodled or sketched on letters home, and many of these have been donated to our collection over the years as well.
This Rockwell piece was commissioned by the Army in the 1950s and used as a recruiting advertisements (usually billboards) for the Army Reserve with a heading that read ‘Strength in Reserve.’ This is one of those cases in which knowing the title and a bit of the painting’s history really changes its meaning!