Education First: The Vietnam Educational Center

On a 5.5-acre piece of land home to the PNC Bank Arts Center, sits the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial together with the Vietnam Era Museum and Educational Center. If you visit Holmdel Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey, these two buildings are within walking distance of each other. Companion structures, they also feature a War Dog memorial as well as a Purple Heart memorial.

Beginnings 

The origins of the Vietnam Era Museum and Educational Center, and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial dates back to a visit by local New Jersey veterans to a dedication ceremony in Washington in 1982. They saw and felt the power of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was an ideal way to honor those who had never returned from the conflict.

Originally, the focus was on the creation of a memorial in New Jersey, the construction of a Vietnam Education Center came later. The dedication of the site for the Memorial took place in 1986 and in 1988 a design was selected. The winner of a statewide competition was Hien Nguyen. His work and the inauguration of the Memorial took place in May 1995.

Meanwhile, the work to create an educational tool that would complement the Memorial continued. The hope was that a Vietnam Education Center would allow all visitors to achieve a balanced insight into the conflict that had occurred in Southeast Asia. The educational component began to take shape on paper in 1993 with the preparation of design plans and content. It moved on to the selection of an architect in 1996. The choice was Ralph Appelbaum and Associates. By 1998, the building opened.

Rave Reviews

Since its opening, the Vietnam Education Center – now known as the Vietnam Era Museum and Educational Center has exceeded its expectations. It is a unique recreation and presentation of the Vietnam conflict. Interactive media including audio/visual presentations as well as temporary and permanent exhibits abetted by enlightening guides – many Vietnam Vets, provide the information. Guest speakers and veterans’ biographies enhance the guests’ visit.

Of particular interest is the Circle of letters consisting of letters and other items. These personal accounts of those who served in Vietnam and their family at home, express clearly the affect the conflict has on individual lives. The timeline of the event which covers the walls and details the event as it unfolds in both the United States and in Vietnam is impressive and an excellent way to help visitors place the event in a very real perspective. In fact, the exhibits, interactive or not, help everyone to come away with a clearer comprehension of what the Vietnam affair was about and how it impacted people in Vietnam and at home.

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