Vietnam War Commemoration Commission

American Textile History Museum


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Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam
May 21 - September 25, 2011
American Textile History Museum
Between 1965 and 1967, a troop transport ship named the General Nelson M. Walker carried tens of thousands of soldiers to Vietnam. For many, the Walker's dock in Oakland, CA was the furthest they had ever been from home. During the 18-23 day journey across the Pacific Ocean, these young men would be taken much, much further.
The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, is proud to present Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam, an exhibit dedicated to thoughts and lives of the soldiers who traveled in this ship and the marks they left behind. Marking Time is a unique, multi-dimensional exhibit featuring a complete eight-man berthing unit, graffiti-inscribed canvases, and many artifacts collected from the ship. It explores the personal stories of individual soldiers, and the life and operation of the ship and offers an intimate view into an important moment in American History.
During the voyage, the passengers were faced with cramped conditions, seasickness, boredom, and the unfamiliar routines of shipboard life. They missed their homes, and were anxious about their destination. While below decks many soldiers passed the time by writing on their canvas bunks. They made drawings and cartoons. They copied poems and scribbled verses from popular songs. Some soldiers wrote personal messages, while others only recorded their names, home towns, and expected date of discharge. One man simply wrote, “Will I return?”
When it was taken out of active service in 1967, The Walker became a kind of time capsule. As part of the James River Reserve Fleet, sometime called the “Ghost Fleet,” it remained much as it had been on the last day of its last voyage until the canvases were discovered in 1997. When the ship was scrapped in 2005, Art and Lee Beltrone, the curators of the exhibit, lead an effort to recover and preserve the canvases and other historic objects.
This exhibit was organized by the Vietnam Graffiti Project in Keswick, VA,, and will be on view at the American Textile History Museum from May 21 until September 25, 2011.
Join us Sunday, June 5th at 2:00pm for an intimate discussion with U.S. veterans sharing their experiences of war in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Free to the public.
Visit the ATHM website at or the Vietnam Graffiti website at for more information and for a schedule of special events.
American Textile History Museum
491 Dutton St.
Lowell, MA 01854
Phone: 978-771-1049
Email Address:
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