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ODU Libraries Hosting National Exhibit That Honors U.S. Servicewomen of Color

By Joe Garvey

The Old Dominion University Libraries are hosting a traveling exhibit that recognizes the contributions of U.S. servicewomen of color.

The Military Women's Memorial (MWM) exhibition, "The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America's Servicewomen," is on display in the Gallery section of Perry Library until Sept. 10.

The MWM partnered with ODU's Military Connection Center, Women & Gender Equity Center and University Libraries to bring the exhibit to campus.

"The Libraries are very excited to host this traveling exhibit," said Stuart Frazer, ODU's deputy university librarian. "A natural fit given the close relationship between the Hampton Roads region, ODU and the military, the exhibit will shed important light on the critical contributions women have made within the military and present voices not widely heard."

The statewide tour, funded by Virginia Humanities, has already made stops at Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute and the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. It is scheduled to be on display at the U.S. Army Women's Museum in Fort Lee early next year. The Virginia stops serve as the kickoff of what the MWM calls its National AppreSHEation Tour.

Amy Poe, the organization's collections manager, reached out to ODU in the spring about bringing the exhibit to campus.

"With the potential to reach current and up-and-coming service members, as well as students who may not know much at all about women's service to the nation, we felt ODU would be a great addition to our schedule as another major academic institution in the commonwealth," she said.

While the showing couldn't be scheduled for the spring, Frazer and Kristal Kinloch-Taylor, Military Connection Center director, began discussing bringing the exhibit to ODU during the fall semester, with the Perry Library gallery space as the venue. ODU and the MWM signed an agreement in July.

According to the MWM website, "The Color of Freedom" will feature an interactive display that will include the stories of 21 servicewomen of color "and bring to light the impact that these women made while serving in various branches of the U.S. military." In addition to content from the original "Color of Freedom" installed at the Military Women's Memorial in March 2021, the exhibit at ODU incorporates QR codes that enable viewers to access a selection of oral history recordings.

"The content of the exhibit dovetails with unique resources held in the Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives," Frazer said. "For example, Special Collections and University Archives hold records from the USS Vulcan, a Navy repair vessel that served in World War II and was the first non-hospital naval vessel to accept women officers. Thus, we hope the exhibit will serve as an engaging entry point that leads our users to other avenues of exploration."

An opening ceremony for the exhibit is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at Perry Library. Speakers will include Timothy Hackman, University Libraries dean; Robert Clark, director, military activities liaison and special projects; Brianna Elum, ODU's Women and Gender Equity Center director; and Ret. Army Maj. Gen. Jan Edmunds, MWM Foundation Board chair.

The Military Women's Memorial, located at Arlington National Cemetery, will mark its 25th anniversary in October. It honors and preserves the legacy of the 3 million women who have served in or with the armed forces since the Revolutionary War.

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