Clutching a Purple Heart medal, the man approached the construction site, placed the medal into the concrete being poured to support the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and walked away. Since that day in 1982, more than 100,000 objects have been left at the memorial – the Wall – and are gathered every evening by park rangers. Duery Felton, Jr., a National Park Service curator and himself a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, has been involved in the collection’s evolution for 28 years. Felton calls the memorial “America's bulletin board.” Objects left range from a sonogram to international flags, from teddy bears and wedding rings, to a custom motorcycle. “This collection is being written by the everyday person,” says Felton. “It's being created and cared for by the public. All the emotions of life are reflected in this collection. It's not just about dying...it's also a celebration of life. This collection is great literature.”
Today, the National Park Service manages the largest system of museums in the world, caring for more than 120 million artifacts in the collections of national parks – making America’s Best Idea even better.