VHP History and Timeline
Established in 2000 by Congressional legislation, the Veterans History Project (VHP) has its roots in a simple family gathering. While at a Father’s Day picnic, Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) overheard his father and uncle swapping stories from their service in World War II and the Korean War. Realizing the fleeting nature of these reminiscences, he grabbed a video camera to record his relatives’ accounts for posterity. This brief experience was the impetus for Congress to create a national, grassroots oral history initiative, which would allow participants to interview veterans in their lives and communities, with the resulting recordings archived as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. VHP’s collecting scope quickly grew to include other types of original source materials, such as letters, diaries, and photographs; in 2016, new legislation expanded the scope to include oral histories from “family members of the Armed Forces who died as a result of their service during a period of war.”
For over 20 years, the Veterans History Project has collected, preserved and made accessible the firsthand narratives of U.S. military veterans. Below is a timeline highlighting a few events and milestones, ranging from VHP’s earliest program initiatives through the present.
Please note that in some cases we have provided links to legacy news releases in order to provide context for historical events. Many of these older sources contain outdated information.
Notable Events and Milestones in VHP History
On October 27, 2000, the Veterans’ Oral History Project Act (Public Law No: 106-380) is unanimously voted into law. This act authorizes the American Folklife Center to establish an oral history program “to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of American war veterans.”
The Veterans History Project (VHP), PDF 14MB is established at the Library of Congress and Ellen McCulloch-Lovell is named its first director.
VHP begins accepting submissions of veteran collections and establishes channels, such as the Five-Star Council, to raise awareness of and foster collecting efforts.
The new Experiencing War series is launched, highlighting digitized content from VHP’s growing collections. This web feature is part of early efforts to increase awareness of the Veterans History Project and to make its collections more accessible.
Voices of War: Stories of Service from the Home Front and Front Lines is published. The first of two books featuring content from the Veterans History Project collections, this book examines war through the eyes of 60 veterans and civilians caught up in the conflicts of the 20th century.
Diane Nester Kresh is named VHP Director.
During Memorial Day weekend, the Veterans History Project records hundreds of personal narratives and presents four days of special programming as part of the National World War II Reunion, “Tribute to a Generation”. This event brings together veterans and their families to reunite, reminisce, and witness the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
“Experiencing War” radio series launches on Public Radio International.
2005 - 5th Anniversary
A second book, Forever a Soldier: Unforgettable Stories of Wartime Service, is published by the National Geographic Society. Authored by Tom Wiener, former Veterans History Project historian, this book contains 37 tales of servicemen and women who served in every major war from World War I through the Iraq War.
A new Veterans History Project Information Center is created as a space to welcome in-person visitors to the Library of Congress. Dedicated to veterans who have worked at the Library, including the Capitol Police, the center serves as a space to host casual visitors, large groups and special events and is now located on the ground floor of the Library’s Jefferson Building.
Robert Patrick is named VHP Director.
PBS and the Veterans History Project launch a public outreach campaign in conjunction with the release of “The War,” a documentary film series on World War II, produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
Larry Minear, former director of the Humanitarianism and War Project at Tufts University writes a study on “The U.S. Citizen Soldier and the Global War on Terror: The National Guard Experience” based on extensive research in the VHP collections.
Working with Larry Minear, VHP creates a companion guide on the Global War on Terror.
In conjunction with the History television channel, VHP hosts the National Teach-in on Veterans History. This program is presented live in the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium and is linked to 2,000 distant classrooms.
2010 - 10th Anniversary
A new guide entitled "Veterans History Project: The First Ten Years" comprises a selection of veterans’ collections suggested by VHP staff members in celebration of this milestone year.
VHP officially transitions partner organizations (PDF, 300KB) to an emeritus status of Founding Partners, and considers any participating individual or organization a “contributor,” regardless of how many collections they submit.
A gala celebration commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Veterans History Project.
A 38-episode podcast series is launched on Apple iTunes U.
The Veterans History Project reaches the milestone of 10,000 digitized collections presented on its website.
VHP presents a series of programs relating to Four Chaplains Day in recognition of the service of military chaplains, and hosts a panel discussion entitled “Chaplains: Reflections from the Past.”
As part of National Preservation Week, the Veterans History Project and the Library’s Preservation Directorate partner to present two programs focused on best practices for preserving old scrapbooks and photo albums, and highlight the conservation treatment of a World War I scrapbook from VHP’s collections.
A “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Panel” includes veterans living with the diagnosis and experts who work directly with PTSD-diagnosed veterans.
In “Breaking the Silence: Our Military Stories,” VHP presents a panel discussion focused on topics surrounding LGBTQ+ equality in the U.S. military.
2015 - 15th Anniversary
Gold Star Families Voices Act (Public Law No: 114-246), amends the original VHP legislation to also collect oral histories from families of “members of the Armed Forces who died as a result of their service during a period of war.”
Karen Lloyd is appointed VHP director.
VHP takes part in “Operation Stand Down” in Monterey, California, and collects stories of veterans experiencing housing instability.
Veterans History Project collection materials are featured in the Library-wide exhibition, Echoes of the Great War, exploring American participation in World War I.
In honor of Veterans Day, two events focus on written expression of the wartime experience. In “The Road Back,” several poets offer readings focused on the use of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction as a means of coping with service experience. Continuing with the theme of the written word, a “Veterans & Literary Writing Symposium” is held with representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Touchstones Discussion Project, and the Warrior Writers Project.
During Womens’ History Month, the first known national reunion of women codebreakers takes place at the Library of Congress. As part of this reunion, author Liza Mundy discusses her book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code Breakers of World War II,” and the son of a “code girl,” Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) reflects on the important work done by these unsung heroes.
In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, VHP creates a Story Map charting the journeys of four D-Day veterans.
2020 - 20th Anniversary
As a record of the year-long celebration of the project’s 20th anniversary, the guide entitled “Veterans History Project: Celebrating 20 Years” comprises collections selected by staff members along with blog posts reflecting on why they love the collections they chose; and, inspiring videos of creative expression through music, story, and conversation.
VHP staff members quickly adapt to working during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue the mission of the project by shifting many programs and processes to the virtual environment.
In response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans History Project staff create new resources in support of virtual interviews.
Two online panel discussions highlight farming in an urban setting as one of many unique career paths veterans take after transitioning to civilian life, and the dual roles of mother and soldier through the personal experiences of four service-connected women.
As part of the return to onsite programming at the Library of Congress, VHP sponsors a three-day, six-session series of art demonstrations and conversations focusing on using the arts to manage Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). “From Conflict to Creativity: Veteran Artists Showcase” is attended by over 2,000 people.