Keeping memories alive: FSU hosts military archive event

(Senior Patrick Hazzard showcased a variety of his military memorabilia. Photo by Cesareo Contreras)

In celebration of the grand opening of the Veterans Center, a veterans community archiving event was hosted in the Forum on Saturday, March 24.

People from all around the area were invited to bring up to three historical military items to be photographed or scanned and archived by the Framingham State Digital Repository staff. All the items processed will be uploaded to Framingham State’s digital commons website. Purple Heart recipient and Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services Francisco A. Ureña was the event’s keynote speaker and pieces from Communication Arts professor Leslie Starobin’s “Dear Dearest Mother” series were displayed on and around the Forum’s stage.   

The event was primarily planned by interim Chief Officer of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement, Millie González. In May 2017, she helped host the “Latinos and Baseball in the Barrios and the Big Leagues,” a similar event in which the University, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, invited members of the community to bring in their historic sports memorabilia to be archived by Framingham State’s Digital Repository team.

She said she decided to work with Veterans Services Coordinator Jacki Wolf and Director of Career Services and Veteran Dawn Ross to host a similar event this year. Wolf suggested they host the event a day after the center’s opening, so there could be a weekend of events honoring veterans.

“I had experience doing a collecting event, so right after the event I said, ‘We have to do something for veterans next year,’” said González. “This is the realization.”

Historical items that were flat such as pictures and letters were archived using a scanner while three-dimensional items such as, medals, pieces of clothing and shadow boxes were photographed with Nikon DSLR cameras. Accompanying all items archived are pieces of paper detailing the item archived and its significance to the person who brought it in.     

FSU’s Digital Repository Coordinator Susan Skoog, the photographer taking photos of the memorabilia, said, “Every family has got history and a lot of the history is in material culture, which is stuff like the things you keep in boxes in your attic. As an archivist, I know a lot of those things won’t last forever and the stories that touch them won’t last forever. … If we can capture the appearance of the object and the clothing and get why it meant something to people, it becomes an object with meaning.”        

In his keynote address, Ureña said the work being done to support veterans at FSU is a “best practice.” According to Ureña, in all of Massachusetts’ 29 public institutions, there is a student veterans center.

“Many years ago that wasn’t the case,” he said.

Ureña was sworn in as the secretary of the Department of Veteran Services in 2015. Ureña’s career in the military started right out of high school when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, according to mass.gov. Throughout his eight-year stint in the military, Ureña worked Diplomatic Security at two American Embassies – American Embassy Damascus, Syria and American Embassy Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Ureña was also awarded a Purple Heart after sustaining injuries during the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign.

“One of the takeaways whenever we speak to veterans that we share is to ‘share your stories,’” he said. “As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. The way we are persevering these military memorabilia is a great example of veterans sharing their stories.”

Prints from Starobin’s “Dear Dearest Mother” photo series showcase the historic military memorabilia of the veterans Starobin interviewed – each photograph calling to attention the realities of war through visual storytelling.    

“‘Dear Dearest Mother’ venerates classic photography, the lost art of letter writing and the relics from the battlefield. 2014 celebrated the 175th anniversary of the invention of photography. 2015 observed the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War, the first American conflict to be photographed. 2015 also marked the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II and the fortieth anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. These commemorations have inspired ‘Dear Dearest Mother,’ a portfolio of still-life montages composed from the keepsakes of war and military veterans,” Starobin said in her artist statement.

Taking up a whole table to himself, senior and veteran Patrick Hazzard showcased a wide variety of military items he amassed throughout his time in the service.

From the now out-of-circulation Bosnian currency he collected during his time in the country, to the detailed notepads which outline the mission plan for his trip to Haiti, each item has a story behind it that has helped shape the man Hazzard is today, he said.

“Everything here [shows] the process of a young man with very self-centered, very selfish and minimal view of the world, learning that the world is much bigger.”

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