They Were Fighting for Our Freedom

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Brave boys defending their homelands. Plucky girls flying planes and administering first-aid on the battlefield. Mothers and children threatened by the evil foe. A new exhibit at Northwestern University Library suggests that during World War II, the United States and Soviet governments used many similar kinds of images to spark patriotism and the will to victory in the hearts of their citizens.
 
The exhibit, They Were Fighting for our Freedom, features dozens of World War II propaganda posters from both countries, chosen and grouped to reveal how similar themes—courage, strength in numbers, the vile foe, etc.—were developed in different artistic idioms. It also includes a short film created from World War II newsreel footage from the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union.
 
The exhibit was brought to Northwestern as part of the Chicago-wide Soviet Arts Experience project, a 16-month showcase of works by Soviet artists running at 26 area cultural institutions, including Northwestern’s Block Museum. Originally, They Were Fighting for our Freedom was created several years ago by Efim Rezvan, a curator at the Peter the Great Museum of Ethnography and Anthropology in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of a commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the end of the war. In the course of his research, Rezvan ran across the Library’s popular digitized World War II Poster Collection, and initiated a collaboration with Northwestern that would spotlight an era when Russia and the U.S. were united in a common cause. Sponsored by the Centre of Russian National Glory in Moscow, They Were Fighting for our Freedom has already traveled to venues across Europe, among them Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, and The Hague.
 
Free and open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday (check the website for exceptions) at 1970 Campus Drive in Evanston, it’s located in the first-floor link between Main and Deering Libraries, and runs now through March 19, 2012. For more information, call 847-467-5918.