Tag Archives: Artworks

Creating their Stamp Around the World: Postal Stamps of the PCCA

Stamps often feature flora, fauna, or an interesting image related to the country or region it’s created for. Also, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) had the lucky chance to live and serve in countries all over the world. As a happy consequence, the two come together when PCVs send their mail home via exciting and new stamps from the countries they served. The Peace Corps Community Archive (PCCA) houses collections of correspondence between PCVs and their family and friends. These correspondences oftentimes include the envelopes each letter was sent in, which means the stamps are often intact. Much can be learned from these stamps, including, illustrations of native inhabitants, local flora and fauna, important technological advances, and much more. Not only do these stamps help carry connections back home for PCVs, but the stamps also share an insight into the exciting communities they served.

Charlotte Daigle-Berney served in Uganda from 1966-1968. On a postcard dated February 1967, she included these three stamps, which feature the local fauna of Uganda. The set of these stamps were released on October 9th, 1965. The stamps feature, from left to right, the Black Bee-Eater, the Narina Trogon, and the Ruwenzori Turaco. All three are native species to Uganda and represent the environmental climate of the country. These stamps offer insight into the vibrant fauna of the country in order to excite both visitors and locals to the nature around them.

 

In addition, Albert and Anne Briggs served in Malaysia from 1964-1966. Anne wrote a letter to her parents on January 5, 1967 and included these stamps. The stamp was released on November 15, 1965 and features the local flora of Malaysia, the Rhynchostylis retusa, also called the Foxtail Orchid. Below, it reads the name “Sarawak,” a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. By “reading” this stamp, one can connect the beautiful flora with a specific location in Malaysia and thereby gather important information about the stamp’s place of origin.

 

Lastly, Bobbe Seibert served in Honduras in the year 2000. Some of her communication with back home was through email, however, Seibert did send a multitude of letters. The first stamp features a nurse tending to a patient and the words, “Correos de Honduras” or “Post of Honduras.” The stamp celebrates Red Cross nurses and the care they have for their patients. The design for the stamp has gone through numerous designs but this stamp was released in 1999.

Another stamp features Ramón Valle, a Honduran olympian from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Valle went to the Olympics in 1996 to represent Honduras in men’s swimming. “Translating” these stamps allows us insight into the perception of Honduras. First, the country values its medical care to those in need. Next, a successful Olympian is a symbol of Honduras and represents their country abroad and at home. Since Valle did not represent Honduras in 2000, but rather, represented the country in 1996, the stamp was possibly produced to encourage the country’s interest and support in the Olympic games. This is supported by the fact the stamp was produced on September 13, 2000 and the Olympic opening ceremony was on September 15, 2000.

All of these stamps share insight into the countries and regions they represent. While some PCVs didn’t notice which stamp they sent their mail home with, other stamp collectors reveal at the significance each stamp offers.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Sending Season’s Greetings: Holiday Cards from Abroad

There’s no place like home for the holidays but for Peace Corps Volunteers, it was difficult to return stateside at any point during their service, much less during any holiday. Peace Corps Volunteers reconnected with family and friends during the holidays through the mail. Holiday cards have been popular all over the world as a holiday tradition and PCVs found unique cards to send during their service abroad.

 

pcca_boge_0014

 

pcca_boge_0015

Winifred Boge served in India from 1965-1967 and sent the card featured above home. While the written message inside sends warm wishes, the images of the card are clearly Indian. In another letter from Boge on December 9th, 1966, Boge writes, “[I] had thought to make ‘Christmas Cards’ but I don’t think I have time to be messing.” Instead, Boge must have sent this card home as substitute.

 

pcca_deantoni_0009_crop

 

pcca_deantoni_0011_crop

 

pcca_deantoni_0013_crop

 

 

Ed and Karen DeAntoni served in Turkey from 1964-1966 and sent many holiday cards to the states. One features a winter scene of the Parthenon in Athens with snow adorning its ruins. The other two holiday cards feature woodblock-esque prints with different holiday scenes. Inside as with the example below, there are holiday greetings in both Turkish and English and in some cases handwritten notes.

 

pcca_deantoni_0014_crop

No matter where they were, PCVs celebrated the holidays when they served abroad. Holiday cards were one way to send well wishes to their friends and family. Many found these cards in their respective locations, but most of these cards had a cultural twist depending on where they originated. Whether it be a different language or a different type of image on the card, many of the holiday cards PCVs sent were unique while still honoring the tradition of sending cards for the holidays.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

You’ve Got Mail: Aerograms and Peace Corps Volunteers

Letters to Peace Corps Volunteers are important connections to home. While they’re away, it’s typically difficult for family and friends to get ahold of their PCVs, even with the convenience of telephones. There are many letters within the collection of the Peace Corps Community Archive, which detail the lives of both the Volunteers and their correspondents. From the happiness of a marriage announcement, to the sadness of a relative’s illness, these letters take a simple piece of paper and turn it into a window into PCVs’ lives.

While the contents of the letters allow a glimpse into the experiences and struggles of PCVs, the paper the letters are written on can also offer a different perspective. Many times, early PCVs utilized the service of Airmail. From Ethiopia to Antigua, the Peace Corps Community Archive houses various examples of Airmail from around the world.

The first official Airmail route in the world began on May 15, 1918 between New York and Washington, D.C., with a spot in Philadelphia. Peace Corps Volunteers did well to utilize Airmail to send their letters home. Airmail was typically faster than “surface mail,” and reasonably priced given its light weight. Therefore, nothing other than the letter itself could be sent since enclosed objects or paper would effect the weight. Airmail was sent on specific paper created to fold and glue into an envelope for easier transport, called an Aerogram. Nearly all examples of Airmail in the Archive are of this type of Aerogram.

Each Aerogram letter has a different, interesting design. Ranging from a simple red and blue border to a detailed design of a zebra, each Aerogram is distinctive to its country of origin.

 

The iconic airmail border is seen here on a letter from Winifred Boge in India to her parents in the 1960s.

 

The iconic red and blue stripes of Airmail are seen all over Aerograms. Winifred Boge sent this letter and many like it from her time in India to her parents in the 1960s. Since the 1960s, the Airmail border has been used everywhere, such as fashion accessories and travel documents.

 

David Day sent this letter to his parents from Ethiopia. The stamps feature Ethiopia's regent from 1930-1974, Haile Selassie I.

David Day sent this Aerogram to his parents when he visited Ethiopia in the 1960s. The stamps all feature Ethiopia’s regent, Haile Selassie I, who reigned from 1930 to 1974. While some Aerograms had pre-paid stamps, some required the purchase of postage. The Aerograms in the collection feature a range of stamps from different countries.

 

Day also sent Airmail he received in East Africa but sent by postage in India.

Day also sent this Airmail to his parents in 1966. Interestingly enough, he acquired this Aerogram from his time in East Africa, when he served in Kenya. However, once he was transferred to serve in India, he sent this letter with Indian postage.

 

Kann, Airlmail 1a

Janet and Steve Kann served in the East Caribbean and sent this Airmail from Barbados. The illustration features the Barbados Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown.

 

Janet and Steve Kann sent this letter from Barbados in 1981 as they served in the East Caribbean. This letter highlights the Barbados Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados. While this Aerogram was sent in the 1980s, Aerograms cannot be used today without the purchase of extra postage, they were used throughout the late 21st century.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Peace Corps Volunteers as Artists

Whether it’s a letter home or a diary entry, Peace Corps Volunteers frequently document the varied images they see during their service. While abroad, Peace Corps Volunteers are often immersed in a stimulating and beautiful new environment. Many volunteers therefore wish to tell their family and friends back home about their new adventures, or find a way to memorialize their surroundings so they can revisit them in the future.

While some PCVs have chosen to photograph their travels, some PCVs have documented their different surroundings through their artistic abilities. In letters, a quick sketch will assist to visually explain complex designs in architecture or costumes. Detailed drawings in a diary entry encourage reflection when PCVs have a moment to themselves.

David Day served in Kenya and India from 1965-1967. He sent regular letters to his parents and included quick sketches of what he saw during his travels. His drawings vary from a scooter driver to a detail of an Indian street. He even drew a few of the homes he stayed in to explain the varying architectural designs to his parents.

David Day quickly sketched a typical Shamata house from his time in Kenya. He sent the letter to his parents to update them on his experiences in the Peace Corps.

David Day quickly sketched a typical Shamata house from his time in Kenya. He sent the letter to his parents to update them on his experiences in the Peace Corps.

 

Day illustrated his home in India to his parents and detailed the differences between his home and the rest of the village.

Day illustrated his home in India to his parents and detailed the differences between his home and the rest of the village.

Bobbie Seibert volunteered in 2000 in Honduras. Seibert spent her free time sketching and would detail the various scenes before her. She captured a variety of locations, from still lifes to landscapes. On one drawing, she notes she was waiting for someone to fix her chimney but gave up after two hours.

 

Bobbie Seibert artistically sketched this landscape of Azacualpa, Honduras.

Bobbie Seibert artistically sketched this landscape of Azacualpa, Honduras.

 

Seibert sketched the corner of her temporary apartment as she waited for her site to become available.

Seibert sketched the corner of her temporary apartment as she waited for her site to become available.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Gage Skinner in Chile

G. Gage Skinner

Country of Service: Chile
Place of Service: Temuco
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service:1964-1966
Keywords: Arts and Crafts, Mapuche Indians, Beekeeping

Accession Date: September 16, 2015, November 9, 2018
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.75 linear feet

Document Types

  • Diaries
  • Biographical Information
  • Training materials (post Chile – related to staff work in Colombia)
  • Publications

Adjusting to New Worlds

When browsing the collections of the Peace Corps Community Archive it is difficult to miss material that demonstrates excitement, fatigue, curiosity, or frustration surrounding issues of adjustment to life in a foreign country.

Often, volunteers expressed these sentiments through letters, diary entries, and artwork. In some cases, notation of adjustment can even be found in the official Peace Corps paperwork.

In this post, we’ll explore the materials of three new collections to illustrate how volunteers adapted: Gage Skinner (Chile, 1964 – 1966), Susan Shepler (Sierra Leone, 1987 – 1989), and Bobbe Seibert (Honduras, 2000).

Gage Skinner, an anthropologist by training, joined the Peace Corps in 1964. As one of the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers, Skinner used his time in Chile to teach Mapuche Indians the practice of beekeeping. But he was unaccustomed to the long hours spent traveling by foot around rural Chile, so Skinner inquired about horses for sale in nearby towns.

Skinner_Journal3066

Sunday, February 14, 1964, Skinner wrote about walking four hours “back into the hills” to see a horse “offered for sale.” PCCA.

Skinner purchased a horse in late April 1964. To document the event, he glued this picture drawn by his little brother Greg into his journal.

Skinner_Journal2065

This drawing by Greg of Skinner’s horse appears in Skinner’s personal journal. PCCA.

In an earlier entry, dated January 13th, 1964, Skinner journals about how difficult it could be for volunteers to acclimate to their housing. As seen on the page below, he bemoans the uncomfortable living conditions in his first home in Chile:

“There are chickens and cats in the kitchen. They are flea-ridden. They defecate on the floors. There are flies in the kitchen.”

Skinner_Journal1064

Wednesday, January 13th, 1964, Skinner described his housing situation in rural Chile.  PCCA.

Susan Shepler, who taught mathematics in Sierra Leone in the late 1980s, offers little in her notes about discomfort. In fact, a survey she filled out in the April 1989 issue of Di News De, a local newsletter produced by the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, reveals Shepler’s openness to the new cuisine and customs.

Schepler_Quiz2062

This is the second page of a “Volunteer Survey” filled in by Susan Shepler from the April 1989 issue of Di News De. PCCA.

In this same issue of Di News De, however, researchers will encounter comics, short stories, and other creative expressions that indicate some of the challenges many volunteers faced. Two examples include a bus ride gone awry and a recipe to recreate familiar food.

Schepler_LorryRide060

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.

Schepler_Recipe063

April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.

Unlike Shepler, Bobbe Seibert described distaste for some local foods and created her own recipes abroad. Seibert, who joined the Peace Corps later in her adult life, detailed her cooking practices in a letter to her father and stepmother, Jean.

On October 17, 2000, Seibert wrote to her parents to explain how she used corn to make a “wonderfully hot, smooth, and comforting” cream soup because she was “not particularly fond of” the homemade tortillas.

Siebert_Corn067

Letter from Seibert to her father and stepmother on October 17, 2000. PCCA.

In the same letter, Seibert  enclosed a photograph of her house. On the back of the image she cautions her parents about visiting, noting “Honduras is not a comfortable country.”

Siebert_Pic1068Siebert_Pic2069

Photograph from a letter to Seibert’s father and stepmother dated October 17, 2000. PCCA.

Seibert served on an agricultural team in Honduras in 2000 until a family emergency brought her back home to Alaska. Yet, her time as a volunteer is well chronicled in her journals, artwork, and correspondence.

In a letter to her husband John, for example, Seibert expresses excitement regarding her new host family and housing:

“My family is perfect.”

“Dona Marlen is a housekeer – not a maid, and they have two wonderful kids, Marleny – she’s eight years old and we go everywhere together and Edward who is two years old and mostly just smiles all the time.”

“The roof is corrugated but of very good quality it sounds wonderful when it rains as it did last night – quite hard.”

Siebert_NewFam070

This letter from Seibert to John on February 6, 2000, offers a positive reaction to a new housing arrangement. PCCA.

Celebrating or overcoming adjustments is part of the Peace Corps volunteer experience. By carefully studying the collections in the Peace Corps Community Archive, researchers can build an enriched understanding of a volunteer’s daily life, including the joys and struggles associated with adjusting to a new world.

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu

 

Bobbe Seibert in Honduras

Bobbe Seibert

Country of Service: Honduras
Service Project Title: Hillside Farming Extension
Dates in Service: 2000
Keywords: Agriculture, Business, Community Development

Accession Date: July 29, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

    • Correspondence
    • Photographs
    • Reports
    • Diaries
    • Training Materials
    • Artwork
    • Memorabilia

Student Artwork in the Peace Corps Community Archive

Christine Wenk-Harrison served her time in the Peace Corps working as an art teacher with students in Sierra Leone.  Her lesson plan notebook shows how Christine stressed the originality of artwork to her students. She believed art could be “something about you, your own idea, and work.” Her lesson plans also reveal her belief that teaching through art could demonstrate to her students how to work both creatively and independently while at the same time following instructions and overall directions.

Through art, Christine’s students expressed themselves, their culture, and their hopes. Below are several examples of her students’ work, held in American’s University’s Peace Corps Community Archive.

Wenk-Harrison Soccer Student Artwork

Student Artwork, Christine Wenk-Harrison, American University Peace Corps Community Archive

Wenk-Harrison Object Student Artwork

Student Artwork, Christine Wenk-Harrison, American University Peace Corps Community Archive

Student Artwork, Christine Wenk-Harrison, American University Peace Corps Community Archive

All The World’s a Stage: A Nigerian Shakespeare Festival

Tom Hebert served in the Peace Corps from 1962-1964. During his service in Nigeria, he served as a business manager for the University of Ibadan’s School of Drama. In this role, he also worked as the “advance man” for the University of Ibadan’s “Theater on Wheels” cross country tour. His duties including tour logistics, promotion, and coordinating with local civic organizations.  In 1964, in commemoration of William Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, the tour group organized a traveling Shakespeare festival. Actors performed selected scenes from plays such as Richard II, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Many West Africans read Shakespeare in school and in many cases throughout the tour, actors performed in front of full capacity audiences. In the city of Calabar, not even a rainstorm shortly after the start of Julius Caesar prevented the audience from enjoying the show. Shown below is a poster advertising the March 6-7, 1964 Shakespeare festival in Ibadan, Nigeria. Tom Hebert donated this item to the Peace Corps Community Archive this past summer. Many of the details in this post are taken from Hebert’s reminiscences of his Peace Corps service.

Ibadan Shakespeare Festival, March 6-7, 1964. American University Peace Corps Community Archive

Ibadan Shakespeare Festival, March 6-7, 1964. American University Peace Corps Community Archive

Tom Hebert in Nigeria

Tom Hebert

Country of Service: Nigeria
Place of Service: Ibadan
Service Project Title: University of Ibadan’s Shakespeare Traveling Theatre (Tour Manager)
Dates in Service: 1962-1964
Keywords: Arts

Accession Date: June 3, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 oversize item

Document Types

  • Poster mounted on foam core- Shakespeare Festival March 6-7- Ibadan