Beloved dresses, baskets, sandals and even a saddle were carefully packed, carried thousands of miles from places like Chad and Otavalo to the U.S. Shirts woven locally and shoes that emulate a camel’s foot for walking in sand and custom made by artisans. Unique pots, perfect for local stoves, sent home and used in cooking. Many objects come with fascinating stories such as evenings of wine-toasting, using a fertility doll, wearing special celebration clothes, and a gift from a bandit in Somalia. These objects and their stories will be featured in the upcoming Peace Corps 60th Anniversary Exhibit.
Forty-seven remarkable objects and stories will be installed at American University (AU) Museum, Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C., from February – August, 2021. The exhibit, called “Peace Corps at 60: Inside the Volunteer Experience,” is hosted by the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and curated by Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of AU Museum, and Alexandra Schuman, Art Fellow of the Alper Initiative for Washington.
Curators for the exhibit chose objects and stories based on their human interest and authenticity. Objects represent a range of geographic origins and diverse volunteer assignments, years of service, ages, races, ethnicities, and identities. The chosen objects were acquired while the volunteer was in service and most are accompanied by a short story offering insight into a unique Peace Corps experience. The exhibit catalog will be available online and in print.
Peace Corps Volunteers commonly return home with stories and objects. The objects may hold value primarily through the memories of the volunteer who received, used or observed them. And unlike traditional souvenirs, these treasures are often made by respected local artisans or friends of the volunteer.