While communications from home for deployed military personnel remain a vital connection, they have changed vastly over the decades, with emails often replacing handwritten letters. Mail Call, a Smithsonian exhibit now on display at the University of North Georgia (UNG), explores the role mail has played in maintaining troop morale from the Revolutionary War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Mail Call is relevant to the UNG as a senior military college and institution serving a veteran student population," said Deborah Prosser, dean of libraries at UNG. "The exhibition also provides the libraries with the opportunity to showcase little-seen letters in our special collections. Mail Call documents the importance of letters from home to service men and women on the front lines of America’s wars. It has wide appeal because it speaks to the human need to stay connected with loved ones in times of strife."The complex operations required to deliver mail securely in extreme conditions and the changing format of mail are detailed in an interactive exhibit that includes photographs, original documents, illustrations and audio stations. The permanent exhibit is on display at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., but the traveling Mail Call exhibit, which is free and open to the public through April 23 at the Library Technology Center on UNG's Dahlonega Campus, is on a 15-city national tour.
The keynote lecture for the exhibit at UNG features Andrew Carroll, an editor, author and founder of The Legacy Project, which is dedicated to "seeking out and preserving… letters and e-mails home" from American service men and women. Carroll traveled to all 50 states and more than 40 countries to collect an estimated 100,000 wartime letters and has donated his personal collection to The Center for American War Letters manuscript collection at Chapman University in Orange, California.
He is the editor of several New York Times bestsellers, including "War Letters," which inspired the critically acclaimed PBS documentary of the same name; the audio version of the book was nominated for a Grammy in the Spoken Word category.
The lecture, which also is free and open to the public, is set for 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Library Technology Center Room 382. A reception and book-signing will follow the lecture.
Additionally, UNG Library Services has planned two workshops on document archiving that will be presented on both the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses. Also, a panel discussion on letters home will be conducted on the Gainesville Campus. The events, which all are free and open to the public, include:
- Preserving Family Papers and Photographs. Feb. 23, 6-7 p.m. Library Technology Center, Dahlonega Campus, Room 382, and March 8, 6-7 p.m. Hosch Library, Gainesville Campus, Room 134. Hands-on workshop about handling, storing, displaying, preserving, and digitizing family papers and photographs. Attendees encouraged to bring along a couple of family papers and photos.
- Personal Digital Archiving. Feb. 27, 1-2 p.m. Library Technology Center, Dahlonega Campus, Room 163, and March 10, 6-7 p.m. Hosch Library, Gainesville Campus, Room 221. Hands-on workshop about how to properly digitize family papers and photos and how to preserve new digital items. Attendees welcome to bring several of their own digital items on a flash drive to use during the session.
- Reading Home: Letters from Iraq and Afghanistan. April 14, 6-7 p.m. Nesbitt Building, Gainesville Campus, Room 3110B. This panel discussion will address the experience of receiving mail from the home front while participating in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Kristin G. Kelly of UNG's Department of English will moderate the discussion with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Reception and Lecture. April 21, 6 p.m. Library Technology Center, Dahlonega Campus, Room 382.
Mail Call is a National Postal Museum exhibition organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
This project is supported by Georgia Humanities, formerly the Georgia Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and through appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly.