Graduate students in St. John’s University’s Master of Arts programs in Museum Administration and Public History brought to vivid life the US propaganda effort during World War II with an exhibit featuring authentic posters held in the University Libraries’ Special Collections.
The Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery is hosting the exhibition, Rally the Home Front: World War II Propaganda Posters, featuring approximately 40 works from American artists such as Norman Rockwell and Robert Gwathmey, among others. The exhibit is on display until April 26.
The posters were mailed to St. John’s in the 1940s, displayed, and then preserved for storage, noted Susan Rosenberg, Ph.D., Director, Master of Arts Program in Museum Administration, and Professor of Art History. Students were not able to ascertain who did the preservation, but the posters were found in excellent condition.
Each section of the exhibit was curated by an individual student, highlighting subjects such as buying war bonds, food rationing, avoiding careless talk, service as nurses, conservation of fuel, and planting victory gardens—actions that allowed men, women, and children on the home front to have a direct and positive impact on the war effort.
Dr. Rosenberg preferred that the posters exhibited not depict violence. “I wanted to focus on the home front and how people could support the troops,” she said, adding that the exhibit is receiving an enthusiastic response from the University community. “Professors bring their classes. We are learning that many of the students who see the exhibit, and their families, have personal connections to World War II. It really seems to be touching people.”
Museum Administration student Megan Payne, curator of the careless talk posters, stressed that collaboration was the key to the exhibit’s success. “Everyone had such disparate themes. Seeing how we all wove them together into one presentation was great.”
Linda C. Miller, a Museum Administration student who serves as Director for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships in The School of Education, curated the war bonds posters and emphasized that the feedback the students gave each other was extremely helpful. There were so many posters from which to choose that it was difficult to decide which ones best depicted a particular theme, Linda noted. “It was important to me to select the ones that make the best visual statements.”
Lalaine N. Mercado, a Museum Administration student and Assistant Director for Career Development in St. John's School of Law, was responsible for the introductory gallery, which serves as a gateway to the individual poster subjects. “I felt very dependent on my fellow students,” she said. “It really helped me to get everyone else’s perspective. I had an idea how I wanted to shape it, but once I heard their thoughts and ideas, I made sure they were incorporated.”