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Program Veterans History Project

Step 1: Prepare

As some veterans may tell you, failing to plan is planning to fail. Whether you're a veteran or a volunteer interviewer, preparation is vital. You significantly increase the research value of a collection when you take the time to familiarize yourself with the VHP process.

Conduct a Pre-interview

Reach out to your veteran by phone or in person to review forms and gather details about their military service so that you may create personalized questions to ask during the recorded interview session in addition to the sample questions we provide.

Consult secondary sources, and think of additional interview questions that are specific to the veteran's personal experience, war, or conflict, branch and background.

Check Your Tech

Technology changes frequently, so please review our media and format standards (PDF, 91 KB). Familiarize yourself with your recording equipment, and if you have any questions, contact us.

Ensure that the interviewee is comfortable. Inform them that the recording will be made available to the public through the Library of Congress. Test your equipment before the interview begins. Check your battery levels and make sure that both microphones are working. Even the best interview will be ruined if you can't hear the narrator. Once you've finished checking everything, it's time to create your veteran's collection. Most of our collections are video or audio interviews, but those are not the only ways for a veteran to share their story.

Creating a Collection

A VHP collection can consist of an audio or video interview, a collection of original photographs, original correspondence, as well as unpublished diaries or journals written by the veteran during their service. In short, you're looking to build a personal narrative of the veteran's service and how it affected their life.

visual for the 30-20-10 rule

Gold Star Families – In addition, we accept interviews from Gold Star Family members, defined by legislation as “a parent, spouse, sibling or child of members of the armed forces who died as a result of their service during a period of war.”

30-20-10 Rule – All collections must follow the 30-20-10 rule, which means a collection must include at least one of the following: a 30 minute or longer interview, and/or 20 pages of written manuscript and/or 10 original photographs or letters.

Once you have met one requirement, any number of complementary materials can be included. For example, if the veteran gives a 30 minute interview and also wants to donate five photographs, that's acceptable. Or if they donate 10 original photographs and their interview falls a few minutes short, that's fine as well.

Related Resources

A special collection of the American Folklife Center.