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Program Veterans History Project

Step 2: Participate

After completing the preparation process, you are now ready to conduct the audio or video interview. Please note: If the collection will consist only of written or photographic materials, please see the “Gather Written Materials or Photographs” section below.

Review Required Forms

In Step 1, you should have accessed, gathered and filled out all appropriate forms to accompany your veteran’s collection. All forms are available on the VHP Field Kit page.

View and/or print the VHP Field Kit

Conduct the Interview

The veteran's comfort always comes first. Choose a comfortable, quiet location for the interview, ideally at the veteran's own home or at a common location like a public library or community center. Pay attention to the veteran's emotional state as well, especially if the veteran is living with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), or if you're discussing difficult topics like combat and loss. It is perfectly fine to pause or even end the interview if the veteran is no longer comfortable telling their story.

  • Ask open ended questions – Draw on the veteran’s emotions, senses and relationships. What was the hardest part of the military lifestyle for you to adapt to? Or, how did you feel about the food in the field? Those are two examples of open-ended questions. View more sample interview questions
  • Practice active listening – Ask follow up questions that expand upon the story your veteran is telling. Consider having the veteran review old photographs during the interview to prompt memories.
  • Keep an eye on the time – Remember, if the interview isn't at least 30 minutes long, it won't be accepted.
  • Take notes – Use the required Audio and Video Recording Log (Interview Notes Form) (PDF, 130 KB) to document the high points of the interview. It doesn't have to be a transcript—just a running description of the main topics discussed in the interview.
visual for the 30-20-10 rule

Gather Written Materials or Photographs

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can consist of an audio or video interview, a collection of original photographs, original correspondence, as well as unpublished diaries or journals written by the veteran during their service. Collections without a 30 minute or longer interview must consist of either 20 pages of written manuscript, and/or 10 original photographs or letters.

Remember, 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.

Continue to Step 3 - Send
Once you have gathered collection materials and required forms, you are ready to submit the collection to the Library of Congress.

Related Resources

A special collection of the American Folklife Center.