Participate in the Project (Veterans History Project)
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Participation Guidelines
Sample Interview Questions for Veterans
Sample Interview Questions for Civilians
Please Keep a Copy for Yourself!
Indexing & Transcribing
Finding a Home for Your Interviews
Bibliographies & Other Resources
Delivering Materials to the Library
Request a printed Project Kit
Download Project Forms

Participate in the Project >> Getting Started

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:

  1. Donate them to the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.
  2. Donate them to a local archives that is a participating partner of the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.
  3. Work with your organization or group to establish its own veterans oral history archives as part of the National Veterans History Collection.

The following questions and answers explore these options:

Peter Bartis of the American Folklife Center reviewing contents of new collections.

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 reference librarians.

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 Project?

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 collections?

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. Some 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 matches 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 partner.

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.

Archives Resource 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 (SAA).

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.

Repositories 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:

World War I recruiting poster, ca. 1918. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number:

Regional societies

Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA)
Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC)
Midwest Archives Conference (MAC)
New England Archivists
Northwest Archivists, Inc.
Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists
Society of Southwest Archivists

State societies

Association of Hawaii Archivists
Kentucky Council on Archives
Louisiana Archives and Manuscripts Association
Maine Archives & Museums
Michigan Archival Association
New Hampshire Archives Group
New York Archivists Round Table (NY-ART)
Society of Alabama Archivists
Society of California Archivists
Society of Florida Archivists
Society of Georgia Archivists
Society of Indiana Archivists
Society of North Carolina Archivists
Society of Ohio Archivists
Society of Tennessee 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 the following:

  • 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 repository.
  • 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 to you.

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 and researchers.

  • 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 overhead lights.
  • 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 accelerate deterioration.
  • Different types of materials require different optimum storage conditions:
    • 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 relative humidity.
    • 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 relative humidity.
  • 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 ink pens.

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 cassette case.
  • Audio and video cassettes should be handled by the outer shell only. Do not place your fingers or any other materials into the openings.
  • 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."

Poster extolling the virtues of V-Mail, [1944]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number: LC-USZC4-2750

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 acid-free boxes.
  • 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 finish.
  • 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 and prints.

Where can I learn more about the care and handling of archival materials?

Linda Sudmalis preparing an inventory and description of a collection (in boxes to her left), at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

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, 2000.

National Archives 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, 1995.

What else does my organization need to know about creating an archive?

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:

A Manual for Small Archives. Vancouver: Archives Association of British Columbia, 1994. (Available online.)

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, 1990.

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 Started

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