Steven Saum posted an articleAn exhibition by ArtReach Gallery and the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience see more
This exhibition by ArtReach Gallery and the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience does more than trace marketing materials for the agency. In images and words — including works by renowned artists Peter Max and Shepard Fairey — it explores how we think about and talk about the idea of peace itself. And how we make it.
Introduction by W. Sheldon Hurst
Curator, ArtReach Gallery
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps in 2011, Shepard Fairey created a poster that was widely distributed across the United States. The focus of the two figures is on the fruit of the earth being carefully lifted from the fields below; plants frame this central image. The plant in the woman’s hands is not simply a seedling; it doubles as the sun, radiating both light and life. A closer look reveals, at the center of the sun/plant, a peace sign, inviting consideration of the grounding relationships that bring about the rooting and leafing essential to the work of feeding others as well as ourselves. This idea of multifaceted relationships has been the work of Peace Corps since its creation in 1961.
My wife, Karen Hurst (Tunisia 1966–68), was gifted this poster in 2015 shortly after we moved to Portland, Oregon. Remembering a Peter Max Peace Corps poster from the 1960s, I started to be curious about the posters adopted by the Peace Corps, and about their various purposes.
Posting Peace became the title of this exhibition, which grew out of connections and conversations with returned Volunteers in the Portland area. It was inspired by an aphorism of the late Oregon poet William Stafford, whose interest and commitment to peacemaking is well-known: “We put in a cottonwood post. It rooted and leafed.” The amazing image of the post rooting and leafing to new life captures the spirit of Peace Corps. That Volunteers are “posted” to serve in numerous places in the world is another understanding of the title. The title was also inspired by another Stafford aphorism: “Go in peace — but go.” Here are a few of the posters included in the exhibit.
This feature story in WorldView magazine also features stories behind some posters, the impact they had at the time, how they resonate decades later — and how they might be different if made today. Read contributions from:
Marieme Foote (Benin 2018–20) | Ken Hill (Turkey 1965–67), as well as agency Chief of Staff and Country Director for Macedonia, the Russian Far East, and Bulgaria | Anne Baker (Fiji 1985–87) | Janet Matts (Kenya 1977–79) | Wylie and Janet Greig (India 1966–68) | Joel Rubin (Costa Rica 1994–96) | Jon Keeton (Korea 1965–67), as well as agency director of international research and development, Regional Director for North Africa, Near East, Asia, and Pacific, and Country Director for Korea
“Peace Corps: A Promise…An Accomplishment…A Hope…1961–1981”
1981 poster, 17" x 22". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Usama Khalidi (Oman 1981–83)
“Think local. Act global.”
2003 poster 30" x 22". On loan from Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development at Illinois State University
“Next to food, what the world needs most is someone who knows how to grow it.”
July 1972 poster, 11" x 8 ½". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Nancy Gallant (Malaysia 1969–71)
“When you get back you can say, ‘I’d do it again’ in Swahili. Life is calling. How far will you go?”
2003 poster, 8 ¾" x 21 ¾". On loan from Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development at Illinois State University
“Here’s your wake up call.”
2003 poster, 30" x 22". On loan from Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development at Illinois State University
“The marketplace is global. You should be too.”
Undated poster 14" x 8 ¾". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development at Illinois State University
The marketplace is global. You should be too. Opening up my perspective to a world beyond just the borders I live within or the countries I claim has helped me realize just how small I am, and just how beautiful the experience is to humble yourself to the world. The Peace Corps has been a step for me in bridging these connections and expanding my conception of a global world beyond just the capitals of major countries, but into the heart of people from all walks of life.
—Marieme Foote (Benin 2018–20) is a Donald M. Payne International Development Fellow at USAID and part of the advocacy team at NPCA.
“The corner office can wait. Some corners of the world can’t. Life is calling. How far will you go?”
2003 poster, 30" x 22". On loan from Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development at Illinois State University
“Peace Corps.” 1971 design by Peter Max
Reproduction poster 11" x 16" printed by Barnes Press, New York. Original 21" x 26". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience
Recruiting on college campuses, I recall we had three versions of the posters with this Peter Max design. One was on poster paper with space at the bottom to note Peace Corps–related meetings, the location of the PC recruiting booth, classes that we were to speak to, etc. These disappeared almost as soon as we put them up, because the Peter Max painting was golden! A larger size simply advertised Peace Corps. It had a tendency to end up quickly in dorm rooms. Then there was the huge version, about four feet by six feet. These we only used in sealed displays or positioning that eluded pilfer. They were iconic, indeed.
—Ken Hill (Turkey 1965–67) served as Country Director for Macedonia (1966–67), the Russian Far East (1994–96), and Bulgaria (1996–99). He also served with Peace Corps HQ (1968–74), as chief of staff for the agency (2001), and as NPCA Board chair.
“Help Peace the World Together: Peace Corps.” 1972 anonymous design
Poster printed e-file, 15" x 11 1/2". Peace Corps Partnership Program. Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by National Archive and Records Administration
“You.” 2011 Peace Corps: 50th Anniversary 1961–2011. Designed by Gary Jameson
Screenprint 161/250, 18" x 12". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Anne Baker (Fiji 1985–87)
The YOU poster was one of three that RPCV Gary Jameson (Turkey 1965–67) designed for Peace Corps recruitment in the 1960s, and was one selected to commemorate Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary in 2011. This signed, limited edition print shows the evolution in five steps of the peace sign into the word YOU. That’s true if you start at the top. I take a different perspective, moving up the poster instead of down: The letters in the word YOU come together in just the right way to form the peace sign. That’s what we must do — working individually and collectively — to lift up our communities and our world to be at peace. This poster reminds us that YOU are the hope for that peaceful world.
This poster was designed to encourage Americans to join Peace Corps. But I think it sends just as powerful a message to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, asking: What can YOU do to continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous world?
—Anne Baker (Fiji 1985–87) worked with National Peace Corps Association for a quarter century, most recently as vice president.
“Peace Corps of the United States of America 1961–1991.” 1991 30th Anniversary Map
Office of Recruitment Resources and Marketing poster, 27" x 36". Design: Chris Fauver of Greenfield/Belsar Ltd. Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Janet Matts (Kenya 1977–79)
I was lucky to be one of three Volunteers asked to start the first school for children with special needs in Westlands, near Nairobi, Kenya. That is my place on the map — Treeside Special School, funded by Mr. Menya, a Kenyan businessman whose disabled daughter was turned away from the government schools. However, Harambee (“Let’s all pull together,” in Swahili) served as a model for creating more schools throughout Kenya. A small Anglican church opened its doors to be used during the week as the school. Harambee also provided the impetus for many children with disabilities in Kenya, previously hidden at home, to attend school.
As we developed curriculum and planned daily programs, we identified individual disabilities — such as speech impediments — and prescribed special support. I quickly realized that the older children needed life skills — such as routine cooking and finding their way around the community. I brought students to my home twice weekly, taught them how to measure ingredients, read community signs, count bus fares, or read books. They enjoyed many Kenyan animal stories; our experiential approach to reading was based on Swahili writing, which — unlike English — uses easily pronounced phonetic words when written.
Treeside School became a model in Kenya. We trained a local teacher assistant to develop methods for teachers whose classroom experiences were limited. I will always appreciate the opportunity to make a contribution to Special Education in Kenya. This country taught me to value the Harambee spirit, and it has shaped my life ever since. So if I were to make this map myself, instead of a quote at the top from English historian Arnold Toynbee, it would be “Harambee. Let’s all pull together.”
—Janet Matts (Kenya 1977–79)
“Peace Corps.” March 1, 2011. Designed by Shepard Fairey. 50th Anniversary Commemorative Print
Screen print on French Cream Speckletone paper, 2/450, 24" x 18". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Wylie and Janet Greig (India 1966–68)
In 2010, the NPCA Board and the agency were beginning to plan for ways to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. Janet had joined the NPCA Board and was beginning the work of raising funds to support proposals for celebrating this milestone in its history.
Out of the blue, we received a call from Peace Corps headquarters asking if we would visit with one of the Director’s representatives, who was to be in California the following week. She arrived with a specific ask in mind: Would we be willing to fund a commemorative poster which was being commissioned by the artist Shepard Fairey? We knew of Fairey’s work — both as a commercial artist and the creator of Barack Obama’s iconic poster for his recent presidential campaign.
We were intrigued by the image — a U.S. Volunteer kneeling in concert with a young man. They are observing a plant sprouting in her hands — was it simply a reference to agricultural Volunteers? Or could it represent progress for them both? Or hope? Or mutual coming together in support of something bigger than either
of them? Learning from one another?
We think all of these. Our lives were greatly changed and enriched by our time as Peace Corps Volunteers in India working alongside Indian partners.
—Wylie and Janet Greig (India 1966–68)
“How much can you give? How much can you take? Find out in the Peace Corps.”
c.1965 poster, 11" x 10 1/2". Advertising Council. Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Ethel Fleming (Micronesia 1966–68)
“The Peace Corps sent me to work with farmers in Costa Rica…”
1995 photograph by Donna Day, Kellet Group & Jamie Sheehan, 11" x 17". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by Doug Newlin (El Salvador 1965–67, Papua New Guinea 2000) and Sheila Newlin (Papua New Guinea 2000)
Costa Rica is a small, peaceful country in the heart of Central America, where the citizens could teach the world more about peace than we ever could for them. This country — rich in biodiversity, with a full quarter of its land protected as national parks — has no military. Instead of spending countless colones to defend its borders with oversized militaries like many of its neighbors, it spends its funds on public health, education, and social services. The result? A life expectancy of 80 years, higher than the United States. Yet as we know, peace is rooted in partnership. As a Peace Corps Volunteer serving there in the mid-1990s, I found that partnership is exactly what Costa Ricans wanted. It was their strong sense of national pride, combined with the confidence to demand to be treated as equals that made — and makes — Costa Rica a dynamic partner for the United States. And for me, Costa Rica and its people are family, equals, partners, and compadres in the struggle to make the world a safer, more environmentally sustainable, and peaceful place for us all.
—Joel Rubin (Costa Rica 1994–96) served in the Obama-Biden Administration as the deputy assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs and recently as NPCA’s vice president for global policy and public affairs.
“Peace Corps Poland, Friends of Poland, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2001.”
Designed by Janusz Tyszluèwicz. Poster, 27" x 19". Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Donated by John Keeton (Thailand 1965–67, Peace Corps staff 1970–76, 1984–92)
The message of the Peace Corps Poland poster — partnership — is even more relevant now than when it was given to me by a Ukrainian American Volunteer two decades ago. He was so pleased that he could serve in his family’s homeland. When I had the honor to negotiate the country agreement I never dreamed how long Volunteers would serve there.
—Jon Keeton (Korea 1965–67) served as Country Director for Korea (1973–76) and Regional Director for North Africa, Near East, Asia, and Pacific (1984–89), and as Peace Corps’ director of international research and development.
This feature appears in the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView.
SEE MORE from this exhibit at: https://museumofthepeacecorpsexperience.org
Orrin Luc posted an articleTuareg silverwork and hidden beauty amid the arid scrubland of the Nigerien Sahel see more
My Tuareg silverwork reminds me of the hidden beauty amid the vast arid scrubland of the Nigerien Sahel.
By Cathy Sunshine
During my second year as a health educator in Aderbissinat, Niger, my work partner and I had new saddles made for our two camels. The camels were our work transport, purchased for us by Peace Corps. There were no paved roads in the barren landscape around Aderbissinat, only tracks in the sand. Volunteers in larger towns got mopeds; we got camels. In addition to working in the village clinic, we would ride the camels several miles into the bush to visit nomadic Tuareg camps, where we would give nutrition lessons, check on pregnant women and newborns, and tend to simple medical concerns.
A tiny, windswept outpost on the Zinder–Agadez route, Aderbissinat was the most remote Peace Corps health post in Niger in the mid-1970s. The townspeople were mostly Tuaregs and Hausas, with a small number of Arab shopkeepers. Scattered throughout the surrounding area were the camps of Tuareg herders, who migrated seasonally with their camels and goats.
In Niger, leatherwork and silverwork are done by smiths called mekaris, who are highly respected for their artisanal skills. We knew of a mekari named Akou who lived in a tent on the outskirts of the village, and we went to see him. In a daily journal entry for April 9, 1977, we wrote, “Over the hill to see mekari about saddles and rings.” In addition to the leather saddles, we wanted to have silver jewelry made, and we agreed on prices for all.
In her work as a health educator, Cathy Sunshine sometimes traveled by camel to visit Tuareg camps outside her village of Aderbissinat, Niger. Photo courtesy Cathy Sunshine
The work took two months, and during this time we made several visits to Akou’s tent. On one occasion he thanked us with a repast of macaroni and goat meat, special foods considered suitable for guests. And there was tea. Boiled in a teapot over a charcoal brazier, it was sweetened with chunks of sugar broken off a large cone wrapped in blue paper. Three rounds were served in tiny shot glasses: the first bitter, the second sweet, and the last sweetest of all. No visit to a Tuareg home was complete without it. On April 27 we recorded, “Tea, bread, macaroni and meat!! Saddles are coming along slowly, but beautifully.”
We were always falling off the camels. Highly intelligent beasts, they have a nasty streak and don’t suffer fools — inexperienced riders — gladly.
On June 1 we picked up the finished saddles, and several days later we tried them out on the Zinder road — with unfortunate results. Our journal entry for June 5 reads: “Camel riding. We crash to the ground narrowly avoiding death. Saddle broken.”
This was in no way Akou’s fault. We were always falling off the camels. Highly intelligent beasts, they have a nasty streak and don’t suffer fools — inexperienced riders — gladly. My partner and I fell into that category, so they tossed us off with some frequency. It was a long way down, but we were young and our bones not yet brittle. We must have had the broken saddle repaired soon afterward, because a subsequent entry notes that we went “to Akou’s to retrieve saddle” on June 11.
A silver ring with inlaid red and green glass, slim silver earrings, and a necklace of silver and black glass. Photo courtesy Cathy Sunshine
I didn’t bring the saddles home with me at the end of my service; they were passed on, together with the camels, to the Volunteers who replaced us in the town. But I kept the ring, earrings, and necklace that Akou made for me.
The ring is silver, with delicate inlays of red and green glass. The earrings are slim silver hoops with geometric shapes at one end, and I wear them to this day. The necklace is made of silver tubular beads and black glass beads threaded together in an intricate triangular design. I have never worn it, in part because the cotton thread that holds it together is old and frayed.
The jewelry reminds me of how we gradually became part of the life of this tiny village on the edge of the Sahara. We commissioned goods to be made for us and sat in the silversmith’s tent, discussing our order in Hausa over glasses of tea. Above all, my silverwork reminds me of the mekari’s patience and skill and of the beauty to be found amid the vast arid scrubland of the Nigerien Sahel.
Objects and Stories
Cathy Sunshine’s jewelry and story are featured in the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. With a growing collection of first-hand narratives, the museum connects people, places, and objects. Learn more about how you can nurture those connections — across nations and generations.
This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.
Cathy Sunshine served as a Volunteer in Niger 1975–77.
Communications Intern 2 posted an articlePeace Corps Posters: In Portland, Oregon, ArtReach Gallery and the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience Host an Exhibit Spanning Six Decades‘Posting Peace’ brings together posters from 1961 to 2022 see more
Posting Peace in Portland
Peace Corps Posters 1961–2022
If you’re near Portland, Oregon, before October 16, be sure to visit ArtReach Gallery for the exhibit Posting Peace. Co-hosted by the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience, it features six decades of Peace Corps posters and maps. The exhibit and an accompanying book are curated by gallery director Sheldon Hurst.
Collectors in Oregon, California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere contributed. The exhibit is also made possible thanks to First Congregational UCC, Portland Peace Corps Association, and NPCA.
Special events connected to the exhibit take place in September and October. On September 18, former Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen delivers the Oliver Lecture. On October 6, Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn — who has been nominated by President Biden to serve as Peace Corps Director — gives a talk on “Answering the Call to Serve Today.” And on October 16, for the closing reception, the gallery hosts a screening of A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Alana DeJoseph.
Poster images courtesy Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and ArtReach Gallery
Orrin Luc posted an articleWith a growing collection of first-hand narratives, the museum connects people, places, and objects. see more
With a growing collection of first-hand narratives, the museum connects people, places, and objects. Those all connect us — across nations and generations.
By David Arnold
“Your Peace Corps service began when you entered training and embarked on your service in another country and culture,” says Patricia Wand (Colombia 1963–65), president of the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. “We’ve collected many cherished cultural artifacts Peace Corps Volunteers brought home and the stories behind them. We want to add your story of that experience.”
The museum’s most recent exhibit was hosted at American University Museum in Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. The next curated exhibit will be at Peace Corps Place when National Peace Corps Association opens its new Washington headquarters, slated for fall 2022. In the meantime, tour an online display of more than 50 objects and stories and learn how to donate your own artifacts and stories: museumofthepeacecorpsexperience.org.
Share Your Story
Here are some ways to tell your story through the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience:
- You may donate an object and propose a story or artifact from your time in your host country of Peace Corps service.
- You may submit a 700-word article or 300-word memoir relating your Peace Corps service including how it had a significant impact on your own life, focusing on an individual, a community, the culture, or a powerful and transformative event.
- All drafts or summaries are submitted with the understanding that the Museum’s editors and curators may suggest improvements or deny publication of the final drafts.
Sharing stories is an essential aspect of the Peace Corps experience. To date, more than 240,000 Volunteers have worked alongside host counterparts in 142 countries. Each of these Volunteers has countless experiences to be learned from, a notion with increased importance after March 2020, when all Volunteers were evacuated from their countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience strives to not only collect stories but also to highlight the accounts and values of the Peace Corps and its Volunteers. This in turn allows the stories to connect and inspire people around the world, promoting the idea of a common experience of humanity over the ideas that divide us.
To better reach audiences around the world, the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience recently relaunched a website with improved functionality. The new website allows for interactive presentations of published stories about objects — the cultural artifacts — that Volunteers brought home from their years of service. The exhibit and the website feature unique stories, and 54 objects with stories make up the virtual exhibits. The new website, through Google Earth, also links each story and object to the country and site where the Volunteer worked. Viewers can pull up photos of the village or community itself via this engaging display.
All this is to better fulfill the purpose of the museum: preserve the legacy of Peace Corps as seen through the lens of Volunteers and host communities. Theirs are the experiences that illustrate Peace Corps ideals.
David Arnold served is editor emeritus of WorldView magazine. He served as a Volunteer in Ehtiopia 1964–66.
Communications Intern posted an articleWhat’s Your Story? The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and the Peace Corps Oral History Project Want to Help You Tell It.Bring your Peace Corps experience to a wider world. see more
Bring your Peace Corps experience to a wider world.
The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience seeks to preserve Peace Corps stories and objects donated by Volunteers: museumofthepeacecorpsexperience.org
The Peace Corps Oral History project has trained interviewers ready to capture your story. They have extended a special invitation to those who served in Ukraine to tell stories of people and places they know, and of efforts to help those in harm’s way: peacecorpsoralhistory.org
Brian Sekelsky posted an articleStories and reflections of eight Volunteers from under-represented communities see more
Stories and reflections of eight Volunteers: The challenges that come with Peace Corps service when you’re a person of color, low income, or identify as LGBTQIA+. And the richness of the relationships forged in communities around the world.
The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project are pleased to share “Many Faces of Peace Corps: 60th Anniversary” video.
The 19-minute video features personal stories and reflections of eight Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who identify as members of under-represented populations in the United States. The stories, gleaned from extended oral history interviews, shed light on challenges faced by Volunteers of color, as well as low-income and LGBTQIA+ Volunteers serving throughout the world. Volunteers candidly discuss improvements needed in Peace Corps operations going forward. And they underscore numerous benefits of cross-cultural relationships among individuals and communities at home and abroad.
In the weeks ahead, watch this space for a discussion guide to accompany the video. The guide will offer National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) members and affiliate groups a resource to prompt discussion of issues relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion in Peace Corps — and beyond.
Recommendations for addressing these and other challenges confronting Peace Corps are included in “Peace Corps Connect to the Future: A Community Report on How to Reimagine, Reshape, and Retool the Peace Corps for a Changed World.”
Tell Your Story
The RPCV Oral History Project invites all returned and evacuated Volunteers and Peace Corps staff to share their unique Peace Corps experiences. To date, close to 1,000 oral histories spanning 60 years of service have been recorded and archived since July 2020 at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky, and from 1999 to 2019 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum under the National Archives and Records Administration.
Any RPCV interested in being interviewed for the collection may complete this form or use the form at Peace Corps Oral History website. The team will schedule a virtual oral history interview an experienced RPCV interviewer.
RPCV Oral History Project: email@example.com
Museum of the Peace Corps Experience: firstname.lastname@example.org