Two exhibitions provide education on the ethical questions of WWII propaganda posters
St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum will host two exhibitions this spring that provide education and prompt reflection on the ethical questions that arise from a rare collection of World War II propaganda posters housed at the museum.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s historian, Major Duncan Emrich, originally gathered the posters as he traveled throughout Europe in the three months following D-Day. The extensive collection of 147 posters came to St. Olaf in 2015 through the bequest of alumnus Richard Tetlie ’43, who acquired the posters directly from Emrich.
The Flaten Art Museum’s goal in preserving, digitizing, and exhibiting the Tetlie Collection of World War II Propaganda Posters is to provide students and scholars with an opportunity to critically examine the dark motives and dire consequences of artful propaganda — and ensure the lessons of one of the worst atrocities in modern history are not forgotten.
From February 18 through April 8, Flaten Art Museum will host The Making Known and Selections from the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters.
In The Making Known, Paris-based artist, diarist, and researcher Benny Nemer attends to the ethical questions of the posters, which contain symbols of hate, antisemitic imagery, descriptions of civilian assassinations, and threatening language. The exhibition’s central feature is an audio guide that takes form through three audio letters written by the artist to individuals of relevance to the preservation and interpretation of the posters and their 21st century meaning: a curator, a paper conservator, and a poet. The audio guide is accompanied by a rich musical score created with the St. Olaf Chamber Singers, conducted by Therees Tkach Hibbard. It also features the voices of St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Religion Timothy Rainey II and Shea Lime ’22.
The audio guide is accessed by QR code, and visitors are asked to bring a mobile device and headphones. A limited number of devices and headphones are available for use in the gallery. Photography will not be allowed in the gallery.
Visitors may choose to then proceed to the Object Study Room to view Selections from the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters, which features seven posters from occupied France. Curated by St. Olaf Associate Professor Emerita of History Dolores Peters, the exhibition prompts visitors to consider how Nazis used propaganda to pacify, persuade, and terrify occupied populations. It also encourages visitors to grapple with larger questions: What is the value of preserving such ephemera? What messages do the posters carry from the past to our present? How do the posters contribute to the complex discussion of systemic oppression and racialized violence in the 21st century?
Photography is not allowed in the Object Study Room, and visitors will leave mobile phones and devices with the museum attendant.
In 2019 the Flaten Art Museum received a Museums for America award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conserve, digitize, and frame 21 of the most significant World War II propaganda posters in its collection. The 21 posters selected were in greatest need of conservation treatment and hold the most value for teaching and learning. Preserving them and making them discoverable and freely available through physical exhibition and digital means will allow Flaten Art Museum to more fully share its collection for the public good.
The Flaten Art Museum team has worked closely with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) in the development of this exhibition. This fall St. Olaf also collaborated with the JCRC in hosting “Transfer of Memory,” a traveling exhibition that features portraits and narratives of Minnesota Holocaust survivors and aims to provide a link between the Holocaust and the generations of people who lack direct memories or connections to the horrors many experienced during World War II.
Learn more about the college’s values and commitments surrounding the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters.
EVENTS AND PROGRAMMING THROUGHOUT THE EXHIBITIONS:
Nemer kicked off his weeklong residency at Flaten Art Museum with a lecture that offered an overview of 20 years of professional practice. He shared how themes of calling, translation, mediation, and acts of repair appear throughout his body of work, and he highlighted the way his passion for queer history, pop music, and flower arranging play a role in the development of his artistic aesthetics. Watch the lecture at the link above.
Friday, February 18
5-7 p.m. Opening Reception | Flaten Art Museum
5:30 p.m. Performance and Remarks | Flaten Art Museum
The Flaten Art Museum opening reception will feature curator’s remarks and a performance by the St. Olaf Chamber Singers at 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 15
4:30 p.m. Responses to The Making Known exhibition with Rev. Heidi Neumark | Flaten Art Museum
Rev. Neumark and a representative from the Jewish Community Relations Council will respond to The Making Known as part of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community’s All Community Read of Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Faith, and Memory.
Tuesday, March 22
11:45 a.m. Curator’s Talk: Selections from the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters | Viking Theater and live-streaming
A conversation with St. Olaf Associate Professor Emerita of History Dolores Peters
Thursday, March 24
11:45 a.m. Inherent Vice: Ethical and Technical Considerations in Conservation | Viking Theater and live-streaming
A conversation with Midwest Art Conservation Center paper conservator Dianna Clise
French Film Series: France During the Occupation
7 p.m. on February 27, March 8, March 20, and April 5 | Tomson Hall 210
This series of French films focusing on France during the Nazi Occupation is presented in partnership with St. Olaf’s French Program in the Department of Romance Languages.