Skip to main content
Class of 2025
Haley Sundstrom is a history major, government minor and a member of the pre-law program at SLU. She is especially interested in modern American history and international relations. On campus, Haley is a member of the women's lacrosse team, club soccer and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. During the Fall 2023...
Summer 2023

In 1987, St. Lawrence University’s then annual David B. Steinman Festival of the Arts was entitled “Art and the Vietnam Era: The Politics of Memory.” One element of the festival elicited over 140 veterans from around the country to send in hundreds of poems to a group of SLU faculty who selected and arranged them into a printed anthology. Along with their poetry submissions, veterans sent notes of gratitude, descriptions of their service, catalogues of awards and decorations they had received, and various other documents.

The poems, many of them unpublished, reveal various recurring themes that are ingrained in the Vietnam veteran experience; authors recount grim realities of the Vietnam War, express their struggles with PTSD, grapple with feeling exploited by their country, and remember fallen comrades with thoughtful elegies. As I read through the poetry and the letters, it became clear that the 1987 festival was the first time many Vietnam-veterans felt any recognition or appreciation for their sacrifices to the unpopular and unsuccessful war. With notable sincerity, they thanked the organizers for the opportunity to share their work and remarked that it was a comforting and healing process to put their own experiences into words and to read about those of others.

Over 8 weeks this summer, I worked in the Special Collections of the ODY library to read, inventory, and preserve these materials. My efforts culminated in the creation of an accessible manuscript collection that is organized, properly stored, and accompanied by a complete item-level record to help viewers navigate the collection. In addition, I wrote an analytical overview of the contents and themes that emerge from this collection to communicate why the material is so important and worth viewing. Finally, in the Special Collections showroom, I curated a display of some of my favorite and most striking elements of the collection.