Behind the Wire: Images and Stories of Vietnam Veterans

This exhibition shares the stories of over 40 veterans, including 12 West Australians through contemporary photographs and interviews by Susan Gordon Brown. 

Behind The Wire: Images and Stories of Vietnam Veterans. Photos: Susan Gordon Brown. 7 August - 27 September 2015

Behind The Wire: Images and Stories of Vietnam Veterans. Photos: Susan Gordon Brown.
7 August – 27 September 2015

Politically and socially, the Vietnam War cut a wide swathe through Australian society and especially through the lives and families of those who served.

The photographs of official war photographers, photojournalists and the personal photographic records of soldiers, provide an important account of this time. Vietnam, with its reputation as the “television war” saw the rise of the assertion of the ‘the public’s right to know’ where debates around the photograph fueled global politics.

Perhaps the most famous personal photographic records are those of soldier Andy Mattay and his Kodak Instamatic documentation of the 7RAR , a photographic collection held by the National War Memorial.

We know all to well that a photo only ever captures part of a story.  Experiences of war and conflict are not limited to the battlefront. So too, the need to document and capture the history of the Vietnam War is ongoing as previously untold stories come to the fore. It is important that the stories both the the war and its aftermath are told.

The American unit that I’d worked with closely gave me a farewell party the day before I flew out of Vietnam. I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to go home. In hindsight, the war was a great waste of life and money, but I wouldn’t have missed it for quids. HQ AFV Kevin Graham b.1936 Ammunition Technical Officer Vung Tau September 1968 – March 1969 Photo: Susan Gordon Brown

The American unit that I’d worked with closely gave me a farewell party the day before I flew out of Vietnam. I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to go home. In hindsight, the war was a great waste of life and money, but I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.
HQ AFV Kevin Graham b.1936
Ammunition Technical Officer
Vung Tau
September 1968 – March 1969
Photo: Susan Gordon Brown


Behind the Wire
presents the everyday, personal stories of veterans through portraiture and oral history extracts. To quote journalist and writer Alan Attwood, “They have a shared history as Vietnam veterans. But each story, each face, each perspective is different”.

“When you returned to Australia you stepped out of a very surreal environment. The experience there was one of wondering: will I be alive tomorrow? Re-establishing the old values was probably the hardest thing to do. It’s almost as if you were between reality and fantasy” Glenn Darlington b.1946 I Gunner Signalman I Nui Dat I June 1968 – March 1969 Photo: Susan Gordon Brown

“When you returned to Australia you stepped out of a very surreal environment. The experience there was one of wondering: will I be alive tomorrow? Re-establishing the old values was probably the hardest thing to do. It’s almost as if you were between reality and fantasy” Glenn Darlington b.1946 I Gunner Signalman I Nui Dat I June 1968 – March 1969
Photo: Susan Gordon Brown

This is one of the reasons why Susan Gordon Brown’s work through Behind the Wire is significant. It highlights that the history of the war is a living history, very present in the memories of veterans, their families and friends. The oral history excerpts featured in the exhibition capture personal perspectives, unrepresented in official sources or history books. It is important to recognise these stories and equally important to collect and preserve them.

“Maybe it dawned on me – one minute I was flying around in a helicopter doing God knows what; then I was going back to work.” HQ AFV, AATTV John Riley b.1946 Medic Saigon, Baria January 1970 – December 1970

“Maybe it dawned on me – one minute I was flying around in a helicopter doing God knows what; then I was going back to work.”
HQ AFV, AATTV
John Riley b.1946 Medic Saigon, Baria January 1970 – December 1970, Photo: Susan Gordon Brown

The Library holds many items from World War I within its heritage collections – diaries, letters, and photographs. They belonged to West Australians who served in World War I or who remained here in Western Australia on the home front. Items of this nature are essential to keep these important stories alive for generations to come.

Collection of such material both honours the individuals or organisations concerned, but also provides the building blocks for researchers and historians, both amateur and professional.

The same is true for the history of the Vietnam War. Without material such as that which libraries like the State Library collects – oral, photographic, written – a representative account of the war and its aftermath and the personal experiences of people affected by it will not be available for posterity.

Behind the Wire: Images and Stories of Vietnam Veterans is on display in the ground floor gallery until September 27 2015. For more information visit: www.slwa.wa.gov.au 

  • Information on donating heritage material to the Library’s collection
  • Explore Bill Bunbury’s interview series on the Vietnam war for the radio series‘Within our time’, held within the Library’s collection

Maps, Plans and Family Stories

 Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631


Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631

Many maps are objects of beauty, works of art in their own right, or marvellous in their precision and attention to detail…

but have you ever thought how maps can assist you with your family history?

The State Library and the State Records Office have large collections of maps and plans. These can be used to locate and trace the history of a house or commercial property. For residences built in the Perth area during the first half of the twentieth century you may even discover house plans.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Townsite plans may include numbered allotments, sometimes named.  You will be able to see how built up an area was at a particular time. Group Settlement plans show individual properties.  The Lands and Surveys chain series maps often give the names of land owners.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Railway maps may tell you when the railway arrived at a particular town.  Some plans show lots, streets and buildings surrounding stations, and land resumption information.

Electoral maps show the boundaries down to which electoral district a street was in. Road maps show street name changes and indicate how built-up a suburb was during the period it was produced.

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Exploration maps may include the first documented comment on the local countryside.

There are maps indicating mining leases, collections of real estate plans and much more.

You are invited to join us on Thursday 27th August for a day exploring our map collections. We will also be including a talk on how to get the most out of an oral history with a family member.

Launch of Mapping Memory online exhibition – speaker Wendy Lugg

Travels in the Archives – speaker David Whitehead

Where the hell are we? – speaker Steve Howell

Don’t put it off! Why you should record your family stories now – speaker Susanna Iuliano.

Talks are free. Please book at Eventbrite.

A Musical for ANZAC Week

Dear Heart stars Stuart Halusz and Rebecca Davis

Dear Heart stars Stuart Halusz and Rebecca Davis

Agelink Theatre Inc is celebrating 20 years of creating theatre from oral histories, entertaining the public and affirming the value of our seniors.
Back by popular demand and proudly supported by The City of Perth and the State Library as part of ANZAC week, Agelink presents the critically acclaimed play DEAR HEART for three only concert style performances from Friday 19 April to Tuesday 23 April 2013 at the State Library of WA in the Perth Cultural Centre.

DEAR HEART, by Jenny Davis, is a true love story, based on her aunt’s WWII letters to her young husband, a prisoner of war in Java. DEAR HEART is a tribute to those who waited at home for news and to the endurance of the young men behind barbed wire. The play has has been published as a novel by Allen & Unwin.
Don’t miss this poignant story of love, hope and courage, featuring live music from WWII.
 
“Agelink Theatre is theatre of the heart.” Tim Minchin

 
DEAR HEART by Jenny Davis Starring Rebecca Davis and Stuart Halusz, Musical Director Craig Skelton, Featuring vocals by Alinta Carroll
Venue: State Library of WA, Perth Cultural Centre Dates: three Performances Only Friday 19 April, Saturday 20 April, Tuesday 23 April at 11am Duration: Approx 70 minutes
*Special guest appearance Tuesday 23 April by Opera Australia star, Lisa Harper-Brown
Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com Ticket prices: $20 full, $15 concession

Two FREE Oral History Workshops in association with the Battye Library
Come and share your stories and listen to the stories of others, or simply become inspired to record your own or your family’s recollections for posterity. Each workshop will feature members of the AIF and RAAF from WWII, as well as members of the home front. All reminiscences are welcome.
Why not attend a workshop followed by a performance of Dear Heart? Sat April 20 and Tues 23 April at 9.30-10.45am Great Southern Room, 4th Floor State Library of WA, Perth Cultural Centre
Registrations essential Ph 9384 8158