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Viet Stories exhibit to close

Thousands of pictures collected from generations of Vietnamese Americans are threaded together to make walls of memories at the Viet Stories exhibit, Richard Nixon library and museum. (Photo: Linh Nguyen)

Titi Mary Tran

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — Viet Stories, an exhibit that highlights the accomplishments, hardships and experiences of Vietnamese Americans, will end May 28 and faces an uncertain future.

The exhibit, which began Feb. 17, is at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. A final, free admission for visitors will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit features works of 17 artists and more than 100 historical artifacts. The normal price to see the exhibit is $16 for an all-access pass to the museum and library.

Linda Trinh Vo, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the project director for Viet Stories, said she doesn’t know where the exhibit will be housed after this year. A smaller version of the exhibit was shown at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana and at UCI, but this expanded version has been available only at the Nixon library.

“It costs a lot to create and move the exhibition, the artifacts and especially those paintings from numerous artists who highlight the Vietnamese American experiences,” Vo said.

Given that Nixon, the only U.S. president who resigned while in office, was surrounded by controversy about Watergate and the Vietnam War during his tenure (1969-74), it was perhaps ironic that the Nixon library staff reached out to representatives of Viet Stories to showcase the Vietnamese American experiences inside the museum.

“When they contacted us, we had to really think about it,” Vo said.

One of the Viet’s stories exhibited at the Richard Nixon’s library and museum. (Photo: Titi Mary Tran)

The exhibit represents an effort to collect stories from generations of Vietnamese Americans who have lived in Orange County, ranging from the dress worn by actress Kelly Marie Tran (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) at the Academy Awards in March to toothpaste and soap used by Vietnamese soldiers and officers, to luggage and artifacts of refugees and immigrants.

Among the most impressive parts of the exhibit are pictures from thousands of Vietnamese who fled the war and came to the United States.

Trâm Lê, co-curator of the exhibit, said only the traveling version, which includes 13 banners and two small display cases, will be moved to the Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana after the exhibit closes in Yorba Linda.

An estimated 2.1 million Vietnamese live in the United States, according to 2016 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam is in Orange County. That figure is about 184,000, or 6.1 percent of the county’s population.