On Veterans' Day, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress launched a program to collect and preserve the personal experience stories and oral histories of America's war veterans and make selections available to the public over the Internet.
The Veterans' Oral History Project encourages war veterans, their families, veterans groups, communities and students to make audio and video tapes of the memories of veterans' time in service.
On Nov. 11, the center initiated the planning phase of the project. Guidelines to assist the public in conducting local documentation will be developed by the end of the year. The Library will create a network of partnerships throughout the United States to encourage affiliated organizations, community groups and individuals to collect these recollections and firsthand accounts.
"Collecting the oral histories of American veterans is a critical task in preserving our history and an urgent need as we enter the 21st century. These histories will be an invaluable resource for future generations and will become part of the nation's vast historical record that the Library of Congress has preserved for 200 years," said Dr. Billington.
The Veterans' Oral History Project was authorized by enactment of Public Law 106-380, signed into law by President Clinton on Oct. 27. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), in the Senate, and received broad bipartisan support.
More than 19 million war veterans are living in the United States today (including 3,400 from World War I and 6 million from World War II), but almost 1,500 die each day.
"The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will preserve these folk histories of our everyday war heroes from every corner of the nation and offer selections from their stories back to the American people over the Internet," said the center's director, Peggy Bulger.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to preserve and present American folklife through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center incorporates the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
The collections include the earliest field recordings made anywhere in the world (wax cylinder recordings of Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine from 1890), ex-slave narratives, folk music collected by John and Alan Lomax in the 1930s and '40s, original recordings of legends such as Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, the work of writer Zora Neale Hurston and the documentary record of more than 1,000 community heritage events and festivals that were designated "Local Legacies" by members of Congress as part of the celebration this year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Library of Congress.
Further information about the Veterans' Oral History Project is available at the American Folklife Center's Web site: www.loc.gov/folklife or at (888) 371-5848.