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Finding or Creating a Home for Your
Interviews and Documents
Once you have recorded an interview and ideally produced a transcript,
you need to consider what will become of your recording and any
letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and home movies you have
assembled as part of the Veterans History Project. Finding a good
home for them is crucial to their long-term preservation and use.
You have three options:
- Donate them to the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.
- Donate them to a local archives that is a participating partner
of the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.
- Work with your organization or group to establish its own
veterans oral history archives as part of the National Veterans
The following questions and answers explore these options:
Peter Bartis of the American Folklife Center reviewing contents of new
Should I donate my interviews to the Library of Congress?
Because of its expertise and long experience in managing documentation
projects, including many with oral history components, the Library
of Congress American Folklife Center is ideally equipped to receive
and preserve your interviews and related manuscripts. Its staff
is familiar with handling all types of materials such as audiotapes,
videotapes, manuscripts, and photographs. The Center's staff will
sort, arrange, describe, and catalog your collection. They will
also store it in acid-free folders and containers to prevent deterioration,
and place the containers in secure, fireproof storage areas with
temperature and humidity controls. Researchers will be able to
consult your interviews and related materials in a secure, publicly
accessible reading room staffed by professional folklorists and
To donate your materials to the American Folklife Center, simply
follow these steps:
- After recording the interview, remove or slide to one side
the tabs at the top of the cassette to prevent accidental recording
over the original. Do not rewind the tape.
- Label the tape cassette and its plastic container with the
following information: name of the veteran or person being interviewed;
his or her date of birth; the name of the interviewer; and the
date of the interview.
- Complete the required Biographical Data Form about the veteran
or civilian interviewed.
- Ask the veteran or civilian being interviewed to complete
and sign the Veteran's Release Form.
- Complete and sign the Interviewer's Release Form.
- Complete the Checklist, Audio and Video Recording Log, Photograph
Log,and Manuscript Data Sheet, all of which may be found in
this Project Kit.
- If time and resources permit, prepare a transcript or summary
of the tape recording. Instructions are available as part of
this kit (see Transcribing and Indexing Your Interviews).
Bring or mail all of the above to:
|The Veterans History Project
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20540-4615
Due to the anthrax
scare of October 2001, the Library of Congress continues
to have delays receiving mail. To avoid these delays, please
use FEDEX, UPS, or other commercial services to send your
interviews to the Veterans History Project.
Do all interviews have to be sent to the Library of Congress?
No. A number of our official partners have told us that they
wish to keep their collections of interviews "close to home" in
a library, university archives, or historical society that local
residents can visit more easily than the Library of Congress.
We see many benefits to sharing the responsibility of caring for
your interviews and other materials with other institutions. Spreading
the collection among institutions distributes the costs but also
ensures that these wonderful resources are available to the public
at locations throughout the United States. Our goal is to work
with existing programs and to create partnerships with them and
other repositories interested in preserving materials that are
created as part of the Veterans History Project.
Sailors "at home" in crew quarters of ship bound for North
Africa on the way to invade Sicily during World War II, [July 1943].
Official U.S. Navy photograph. Prints
and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number:
Are materials donated elsewhere still part of the Veterans History
Absolutely. Your interview and related documentation need not
be preserved and housed at the Library of Congress to be considered
part of the Veterans History Project. Please contact us if your
material will be donated to another repository so that we can
obtain from you or the receiving institution the necessary information
to register your collection in our comprehensive national catalog.
This will ensure that the location and contents of your interview
and other documents are known to researchers worldwide.
In addition, names of all veterans and home front supporters
interviewed as part of the Veterans History Project, regardless
of where their recordings physically reside, will appear on our
online National Registry of Service (forthcoming on this Web site).
Accompanying each name will be information about the individual's
branch of service or wartime occupation and the wars in which
they were involved.
How do I find an alternative home for my interviews and manuscript
There are many fine archives and manuscript repositories throughout
the United States that are eager to receive documentation about
America's wartime experiences. These repositories are typically
part of state and county historical societies, museums, state
and municipal archives, college and university libraries, military
history centers, and private corporations and organizations.
of these archives have well-established oral history programs
that predate the Veterans History Project, and you may find that
these institutions provide a congenial home for your collection
because they focus on a specific branch of the military, region
of the country, or gender, race, or ethnic affiliation which
your own experience. Information about some of these projects
may be found on our lists of Additional
Repositories for Veterans' Histories and Existing
Oral History Sites.
In the near future, you will also be able to consult our Directory
of Participating Archives, which lists institutions that have
indicated an interest in preserving interviews created through
the Veterans History Project. We will continuously add institutions
to this directory, and we are interested in learning of ones that
should be approached about joining this national effort. Please
contact our program officer responsible for archives and libraries
if you wish to nominate a repository for designation as an official
Should you need to explore beyond the lists cited above, the
following sources may be helpful in identifying other repositories
in your area, which have not yet become official partners of the
Veterans History Project. Links to Web sites for these resources,
when available, are included in the list below. (Since these links
are to resources provided by organizations outside the Library
of Congress, the Library cannot be responsible for their content.)
American Association for State
and Local History. Directory of Historical Organizations
in the United States and Canada. Nashville, Tenn. : AASLH
Press, 2000. See also the AASLH Web site.
Center (ARC) Web site maintained by the Council of State Historical
Records Coordinators (COSHRC), American Association for State
and Local History (AASLH), and the Society of American Archivists
Carson, Dina C., ed. Directory of Genealogical and Historical
Society Libraries, Archives, and Collections in the US and Canada.
Niwot, Colo.: Iron Gate Pub., c2000.
Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers.
Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 2000.
National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Directory
of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States,
2nd ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1988.
of Primary Sources (Web site maintained by Terry Abraham).
Winkler, David F. Guide to Naval Oral History Repositories.
Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Foundation, 2001.
You may also find it useful to contact your state or regional
archives organization. Some of these include:
Conference of Inter-Mountain
Archives Conference (MARAC)
Midwest Archives Conference
New England Archivists
of Rocky Mountain Archivists
Society of Southwest
Association of Hawaii Archivists
Council on Archives
Archives and Manuscripts Association
Maine Archives & Museums
New Hampshire Archives Group
New York Archivists
Round Table (NY-ART)
Society of Alabama Archivists
Society of California
Society of Florida
Society of Georgia Archivists
Society of Indiana
Society of North Carolina
Society of Ohio Archivists
What factors should be considered when choosing an archive?
To locate a suitable archive or repository for your interviews
or those collected by your veterans group or civic association,
you may need to telephone or visit several institutions and discuss
- Does the archive maintain a safe and secure storage area with
good temperature and humidity controls?
- Does the archive provide public access to its collections
on a regular and reliable schedule?
- Will the archive supply the Library of Congress with information
about your interviews?
- Are you willing to sign a donation agreement, conveying physical
ownership of your materials to the archive? You should understand
that for safety reasons, once the materials become the property
of the archive, they generally do not circulate outside the
- Are you familiar with the institution's policies regarding
access, photoduplication, publication, and dedication of copyright
and other literary property rights? Don't hesitate to ask the
archivists and librarians to explain anything that is unclear
Can my organization create its own archive of interviews?
Yes, creating your own archive is also an option but one that
requires good planning and adequate resources. Should your organization
decide to retain the materials it collects while participating
in the Veterans History Project, it should be prepared to provide
facilities and equipment necessary for ensuring the collections'
long-term preservation and use.
What physical factors should be considered in creating an archive?
The following factors are essential in selecting a site for an
archive and creating an appropriate environment for both collections
- The archive should be located in a fireproof or fire-resistant
building equipped with fire extinguishers, heat and smoke detectors,
locks, and security alarms.
- Basement and attic locations should be avoided because of
the problems they pose with respect to extreme temperatures,
overhead pipes, mold, and proximity to potentially damaging
insects and ground water.
- Protect collections from natural and ultraviolet light. Light
causes inks and photographic images to fade and accelerates
chemical degradation in paper. Cover windows with blinds or
heavy drapes and use ultraviolet filters on the windows and
- Protect all materials from dust and dirt by placing them in
archival folders, boxes, or cabinets. Where audiotapes and videotapes
are present, equip air-conditioning systems with electrostatic
air filters, damp wipe all dust-collecting surfaces, and damp
mop rather than sweep or vacuum the floors.
- Avoid using wood shelving. Obtain sufficient metal shelving
to store existing collections as well as future additions. Maps,
oversize manuscripts, and matted photographs may require special
shelving or cabinets.
- Temperature and humidity should be maintained as constant
as possible. Fluctuations in either can be damaging and will
- Different types of materials require different optimum storage
- Audiotapes and videotapes are generally stored at 65-70
degrees and 45-50 percent relative humidity.
- Photographs should be stored at 68 degrees and 30-40 percent
- Manuscripts and other paper documents are usually stored
at less than 72 degrees and 35 percent relative humidity.
- If materials must be stored together, consider ranges
between 60 and 70 degrees and between 40 and 50 percent
- A reading room should be available separate from the stacks.
It should be equipped with good lighting, desks and chairs,
play-back equipment for audio- and videotapes, and an area to
stow coats, briefcases, book bags, and other personal items
not permitted in the reference area. Do not allow food and drinks
in the reading room, and require researchers to use pencils
when working with the collections to avoid possible damage from
What other preservation steps should my organization take to
preserve our taped interviews, manuscripts, and photographs?
Audio and Videocassette Tapes
- Make copies of your tapes for transcribing and research purposes.
Store the masters apart from their copies.
- To avoid accidental over-recording on a video or audio cassette,
push in or remove the two small square tabs on the back of the
- Audio and video cassettes should be handled by the outer shell
only. Do not place your fingers or any other materials into
- Store the tapes in their plastic boxes standing upright, on
edge. Do not lay them flat.
- Do not set tapes on top of or near any equipment which can
be a source of heat or magnetic fields.
- Tapes, including cassettes, should not be rewound or fast-forwarded
before storing. Rewinding can create uneven tension within a
tape. Play a tape completely through, then store it without
rewinding. If possible, rewind tapes at play speed every couple
years to avoid "print-through" or "voice-over."
Letters, Diaries, and Other Paper Documents
- Acid found in paper and wood causes letters, newspapers, and
other manuscript items to become yellow and brittle. Store your
papers in acid-free alkaline folders, polyester film folders,
or alkaline mats inside acid-free storage boxes.
- Newspaper clippings, telegrams, and other highly acidic materials
should be isolated or photocopied onto acid-free paper to avoid
the acid in them from migrating to other documents.
- Avoid folding and unfolding papers.
- Remove rubber bands, rusty staples, and paper clips before
filing the papers.
- Avoid using pressure?sensitive tapes (such as scotch tape
and post-it notes), which cause discoloration and damage to
the paper and ink.
Photographs and Slides
- Make copies of your photographs for display, and keep the
originals safely stored.
- Store photographs in file folders, envelopes, or other protective
enclosures made of plastic or paper. Place the enclosures inside
- If possible, keep negatives separate from print materials.
Store color transparencies and slides in polypropylene pages
and sleeves or in acid-free or metal boxes with a baked-on enamel
- Avoid storing photographs and negatives in contact with cardboard,
mounting boards made of high wood-pulp content, and newspaper
clippings or other acidic papers.
- Do not use rubber bands, paper clips, pressure-sensitive tapes,
glues, and rubber cement on photographs and slides.
- Avoid touching fragile photographic materials, since oils
on the skin and salts in human perspiration may damage surfaces.
Wear clean cotton gloves if possible when handling both negatives
Where can I learn more about the care and handling of archival
Linda Sudmalis preparing an inventory and description of a collection
(in boxes to her left), at the American Folklife Center, Library of
Child, Margaret S. Directory of Information Sources on Scientific
Research Related to the Preservation of Sound Recordings, Still
and Moving Images, and Magnetic Tape. Washington, D.C.: Commission
on Preservation and Access, c1993.
Council on Library and Information
Resources Web site.
Ellis, Margaret Holben. The Care of Prints and Drawings. Nashville:
American Association for State and Local History, 1987.
Foundation of the American
Institute for Conservation (FAIC) Web site.
Library of Congress. Preservation
Directorate Web pages.
Long, Jane S., and Richard W. Long. Caring for Your Family
Treasures: Heritage Preservation. New York: Harry N. Abrams,
and Records Administration. Preservation Web page.
National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections. Caring
for Your Collections. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992.
National Endowment for the Humanities. My History is America's
History: 15 Things You Can Do to Save America's Stories. Washington,
DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 1999.
Ogden, Sherelyn, ed. Preservation of
Library & Archival
Materials: A Manual. 3rd edition. Andover, Mass.: Northeast
Document Conservation Center, 1999. Online version available at
Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn. Preserving Archives and Manuscripts.
Chicago, Ill: Society of American Archivists, 1993.
Van Bogart, John W. C. Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling:
A Guide for Libraries and Archives. Washington, DC, St. Paul,
MN: Commission on Preservation and Access, National Media Lab,
What else does my organization need to know about creating an
In addition to preserving and storing your interviews and other
documents in an environmentally safe archive, your organization
must arrange, describe, and catalog the collection in a consistent
and logical manner to ensure its continuing research use. The
archives staff will need to create guides or catalog records that
allow researchers to identify interviews relating to specific
time periods, subjects, events, and people. It might also need
to create transcriptions or interview summaries that enable researchers
to locate within any given interview the desired information.
Instructions for compiling transcriptions are part of this kit
(see Transcribing and Indexing Your Interviews), but a detailed
discussion of how to organize and describe archival collections
is outside the scope of these guidelines. Instead please refer
to the following basic publications and Web sites:
Manual for Small Archives.
Vancouver: Archives Association of British Columbia, 1994. (Available
Carmicheal, David W. Organizing Archival Records:
A Practical Method of Arrangement and Description for Small Archives.
Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993.
Fox, Michael J., and Peter L. Wilkerson. Introduction
to Archival Organization and Description: Basic Concepts.
Los Angeles: Getty Information Institute, 1998. See also the related
Web site: Introduction
to Archival Organization and Description: Access to Cultural Heritage.
Hunter, Greg. Developing and Maintaining Practical
Archives. New York: Neal Schuman Publishers, 1997.
Kenworthy, Mary Anne, et al. Preserving Field
Records: Archival Techniques for Archaeologist and Anthropologists.
Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1985.
Livelton, Trevor. Archival Theory, Records,
and the Public. Chicago: Society of American Archivists and
Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.
Miller, Frederic M. Arranging and Describing
Archives and Manuscripts. Chicago: Society of American Archivists,
Stielow, Frederick J. The Management of Oral
History Sound Archives. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
Yakel, Elizabeth. Starting an Archives.
Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1994.
Participate in the Project >> Getting