Yesterday, Mudd Library introduced a new historical exhibit featuring the University’s collection of war-related artifacts.
The exhibition, titled “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War,” explores, through the lens of war, how education and the pursuit of knowledge evolved on Princeton’s campus over a 200-year period.
“Starting with the French and Indian War and ending with the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the exhibition is meant to capture the experience of Princeton students who were in school and had to go to war and what that meant for them,” said Sara Logue, the assistant archivist for public services who curated the exhibit.
Logue mentioned that the exhibit also highlights how the University mobilized to help soldiers adjust upon returning to campus after war.s Other displays focus on students who did not want to fight in wars and engaged in anti-war protests instead.
“It’s really just looking at how students educated themselves and how Princeton handled education throughout war in history,” Logue said.
In particular, the exhibition explores the adjustments made to the University during each period of U.S. involvement in war — including the American Revolution, in which British and American troops occupied Nassau Hall at various times, and the Civil War, when many southern students returned home to fight against their classmates.
In addition, the exhibition examines the University’s role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. For example, contributions of several dozen University physicists, chemists, and mathematicians to the assembly of the country's first nuclear weapon in Los Alamos, New Mexico are on view. The work of graduate students who refined uranium in the old Frick Chemistry Lab is also part of the exhibition. A poignant contrast sits next to the records from Frick: roof tiles from Hiroshima University’s original campus. These were a “thank you” gift to Princeton for its efforts to help rebuild the Japanese university after its destruction in the 1945 atomic bombing.
“We’re a country that is forgetting about war,” said Steven Knowlton, University Librarian for History and African American Studies. “In WWII about 80 percent of Princetonians wound up in the military, but nowadays it’s fewer than one percent of all people of military age ever enlist. The experience of war therefore is becoming more and more distant from all of us. Since war is such an important instrument of national policy, it removes us all from being cognizant of what war does to a community. So I’m very pleased to see the experience of Princetonians at war.”
This exhibition will be on display until June 2018.