Madison's Jim Huberty shares his Vietnam-era collection
When Jim Huberty was a UW student in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
he socked away a dozen crates' worth of materials related to the
era's Vietnam protests: posters, handouts, underground newspapers.
He can't quite explain why he saved the stuff, much less why he kept
it for 40 years. But he is revealing on the point when he notes: "I
still haven't forgiven my mom for throwing out my baseball card collection."
Beginning tonight, materials from Huberty's collection will be
displayed in Revolution's Wallpaper, an exhibit in the 1925 Gallery
of UW's Memorial Union. The exhibit's roughly 40 items document an
extraordinary chapter in the history of the city and university.
"There was a fair amount of unrest," Huberty says of the time, with
understatement. "I was a participant-slash-observer in the protests
and rallies," he recalls, but "because of the person I am, I was very
interested in not getting arrested. I didn't want to put myself at
risk in terms of violence, trashing, fire bombing." He was a UW
undergraduate from 1967 to 1971, and a graduate student in political
science from 1972 to 1974.
His arrival here in fall 1967 coincided with the Dow riots in October
of that year, when students protested recruiters from the company
that manufactured napalm. "I went to class and came back up
Observatory Drive, and all hell was breaking loose," he says of the
protests. "There was shouting, police taking students away, pepper
gas. It was extremely chaotic."
Huberty, 58, lives on the west side and is finance manager of the
Regent Market Cooperative. He hails from Kiel, Wis., 28 miles
northeast of Fond du Lac. "I come from a small town with small-town
values," he says. "My dad wanted me to be in West Point, and he was
upset at my coming down here. He felt I was becoming a communist."
Included in Huberty's collection are flyers for political rallies,
like a Bascom Hill protest of President Richard M. Nixon's Cambodian
adventure. "Stop the mad bomber!" the poster says, and a grotesque
cartoon shows Nixon sticking out a forked tongue.
Huberty has shared his collection at local high schools. "Kids really
turn onto it," he says. "But," he adds, chuckling, "I'm careful not
to try to convert them, turn them into communists and radicals."
The wounds of the 1960s have not fully healed, he notes. Says Huberty
of his collection, "Forty years later, this stuff could still provoke
a bar fight."
Revolution's Wallpaper runs at Memorial Union's Class of 1925 Gallery
through March 11. Huberty will speak at the gallery at 8 p.m. on
Friday, February 1.
Signs of those turbulent times
FEB 1, 2008
By Brittany Schoepp
During the conflict and chaos that took over the UW-Madison campus
during the Vietnam War, one student found a strikingly simple way to
preserve a piece of history.
Jim Huberty just collected everything he could get his hands on
during the tumultuous time -- posters, leaflets, brochures,
broadsides, newspapers, photographs -- and while most others would
dismiss these snapshots of history as pieces of paper and toss them
away, he kept them.
Now, the posters and fliers that lined Madison 's streets four
decades ago are back on display to give people a chance to connect
with what Huberty called an "explosive culture and time. "
The Memorial Union Class of 1925 Gallery is now housing about 40
framed original posters and photographs as well as dozens of
photocopies of leaflets Huberty collected in Madison between 1967 and
1975 when he was an undergraduate political science and history
student and a graduate student in education and history.
Out of his extensive collection of memorabilia of the protests,
concerts, rallies and causes, less than one-third of it is on display
in the gallery, Huberty estimated.
"It really speaks to how much was going on at the time, " he said.
It was challenging for him to decide which pieces would go to the
public and which would stay packed away, he said. And while several
of his favorites are up in the gallery, he said every piece of the
collection connects with him because the era helped form the person
he is now today.
"It was another kind of education, " he said.
One of his favorites -- the sign that began Huberty 's collection --
is rather simple, with a brown background and large, black script
that reads, "Strike! For Your Rights! " Something about the sign
grabbed his attention, and he then began to gather more over the next
Most of the posters were plastered over university and city
buildings, and along came Huberty, who carefully removed staples and
tacks and managed to preserve them. "I even took one off a recruiting
building, " he said with a grin.
The most common -- and difficult -- question Huberty gets about his
collection is simply, "Why? " Huberty said other than the fact that
he has enjoyed collecting things since childhood, he doesn 't really
know what drove him to keep gathering signs after he picked up the
first one. "But I don 't think it 's always important to know why, " he said.
Huberty, who also works as the finance officer at the Regent Market
Cooperative, a substitute teacher and as a private tutor, often takes
parts of his collection to high schools around the region to students
learning about the Vietnam era. "When you get to see it, it can make
a larger and more meaningful connection, " he said.
Huberty hopes his exhibit at the Union sparks discussion about the
era and gives the public the chance to have that connection.
"There 's art in here, there really is. Part of art is the ability to
connect with people, or re-connect with people who were there, " he said.
Huberty submitted his proposal for the gallery, "Revolution 's
Wallpaper, " and it was selected by a committee of students last
year, according to Robin Schmoldt, the Union 's art and film adviser.
Exhibitions are chosen first on artistic merit, but Schmoldt said the
committee also looks to bring in exhibits such as Huberty 's that
have an educational and historical focus.
"This is really a slice of Madison history through his eyes and his
collection, " Schmoldt said. "And it 's something people would never
think to save. So many of these things have been lost to time, as
they were often seen as disposable or temporary in nature. "
Although signs and scrawlings to stop the current war in Iraq can be
seen up and down State Street, Huberty said it 's difficult to
compare such different wars and political climates.
"The Vietnam War didn 't exist in a vacuum, " he said, explaining
that the many movements and issues, including civil rights, feminism,
the Black Panthers, the draft, police violence and government
oppression, all created an "electric " dynamic. "How could that
uniqueness ever be repeated? "
IF YOU GO
What: "Revolution's Wallpaper, " a collection of Vietnam War-era
posters, broadsides, leaflets, newspapers and photographs.
Where: The Class of 1925 Gallery on the second floor of Memorial
Union, 800 Langdon St.
When: Through March 11, with an artist gallery talk at 8 p.m. today.