On Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, the Newseum will open its latest exhibit, “The Marines and Tet: The Battle That Changed the Vietnam War.” The innovative exhibit will feature 20 large-format photographs from the 1968 Tet Offensive and 10 tactile versions of those photographs with touch-activated sensors that provide audio interviews, allowing blind and low-vision visitors to experience the images through touch and sound.
Developed with generous support from the National Federation of the Blind and Nikon, the Newseum is the first museum in the United States to host a major tactile exhibit designed to include blind and low-vision visitors.
The exhibit will feature the work of John Olson, a young photographer with Stars and Stripes who spent three days with the Marines at the 1968 Battle of Huêˊ. Olson’s image of a tank carrying wounded Marines became one of the most iconic images of the war.
“On the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, this exhibit explores a battle that was a major turning point in the Vietnam War through John Olson’s powerful photographs and the searing stories of the Marines who fought there,” said Cathy Trost, senior vice president of exhibits and programs at the Newseum. “We are excited to present this in an innovative way that offers people new ways to experience visual history through touch and sound.”
Huêˊ was one of more than 100 cities and villages that North Vietnamese forces struck with a surprise attack on the holiday known as Tet. North Vietnamese forces were ultimately pushed back, but the strength and resolve of the enemy stunned the U.S. military and further eroded support for the war on the homefront. Olson’s photographs were featured in Life magazine, and he won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his work.
“For blind people, living the lives we want includes experiencing works of art and museum exhibits in order to share in the rich history and culture of our nation and the world,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are pleased and proud to sponsor this first-of-its-kind exhibit at the Newseum.”
“Photography plays a vital role in chronicling history,” said Kosuke Kawaura, director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “Nikon is gratified to continue to support the Newseum and its commitment to outstanding photojournalism, as well as their efforts to make these groundbreaking images accessible to more people than ever before.”
“The Marines and Tet” was produced in partnership with Stars and Stripes, which provides news for America’s military, and 3DPhotoWorks, which converts images to three-dimensional tactile prints.
The exhibit will also include unique artifacts, including Nikon cameras that Olson used in Vietnam and personal items from the Marines, as well as newspapers and magazines that published Olson’s photography. Ten Marines were interviewed for the exhibit, including the battalion and company commanders, some of them revealing their stories publicly for the first time.
Some of the Marines in Olson’s photographs have been identified, but others remain nameless. As part of his mission to identify all the men in the photos, Olson has set up www.tet1968.com, a website that allows the public to assist with his research and share their stories of Tet.
On Jan. 25, the Newseum will host a program featuring Olson and Mark Bowden, best-selling author of the book “Huêˊ 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.” Joining Olson and Bowden will be Marines from the battle who are the subjects of Olson’s gripping images, as well as Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, and Max Lederer, publisher of Stars and Stripes.
“The Marines and Tet” will be on display at the Newseum through July 8, 2018.