Veterans History Project: 2019 National Book Festival

Veterans History Project: 2019 National Book Festival

December 10, 2019 0 By Kailee Schamberger


>>Kerry Ward: Who here
in this room is a veteran? Oh, excellent. Keep those hands up. [ Applause ] Thank you for your service. Now keep those hands up only
for a little bit longer. Now, everybody else, who
here knows a veteran? I want you to take just a
quick moment to look around. Almost everybody in this
room has their hands up, and that is part of
why this project is so important and so amazing. The mission of the Veterans
History Project is to collect, preserve and make accessible
the firsthand war remembrances of our nation’s veterans. I’m going to tell you a
little bit about our history, and the reason I’m going to
do that is because I’m really, really excited about the
fact that we’re coming up to our 20th anniversary. So the Veterans History
Project started October 27th the year 2000. We’re going to time
travel really quickly. I’m going to take you
back to that year. And I’m going to introduce you to Representative Ron
Kind of Wisconsin. Representative Ron Kind was
enjoying a Father’s Day, you know, barbecue, just hanging
out watching his two kids play, when all of a sudden he had
noticed that his father, a World War II veteran, and his
uncle, a Korean era veteran, started swapping stories. And they were sharing things
that even though he had grown up with them he had
never heard that before. Recognizing the importance
of that moment, Ron Kind ran inside, got that ubiquitous giant
camcorder we all remember from the year 2000
and started recording. And it wasn’t just for
him that he was recording, but rather it was
for his two sons. Because he recognized there
was absolutely no way they were going to understand
the importance of what was going
on at that moment. So remember I said Father’s Day. October 27th wasn’t
too far away. By October 27th we were
unanimously bipartisan passed into legislation to have
the Veterans History Project with an effort to have people
in their communities to reach out to the veterans
in their lives. So looking up at the screen
you can see we have a bit of a variety as far as
our veteran stories go. Veterans History Project
consists of stories from every state,
every district. They range from World War I
up through current conflicts. Looking up at the screen you can
see we have Star-Crossed Lovers. That’s Tracy Sugarman. His collection includes some of the best love letters I’ve
ever read in my entire life. Below him with the red
background is actually a chaplain who at one point
had questioned his faith. We have the Navajo code talkers. And, yes, we do have the
Medal of Honor recipients. But that’s not necessarily
what we’re after. What we’re looking for is those
personal connection stories. We are looking from
the ground up, from the foxhole,
from the cockpit. We want to know what
you saw, felt, remember. One of my favorite
questions is about food. Who doesn’t love food, right? I feel like food is something
that’s completely relatable to somebody. Everybody has a story about what
food was like in the service. So, once again, our collection
spans from World War I up through current conflicts. And as we are coming up to our
20th anniversary we are very happy to announce the fact that we have 110,000
different collections. I saw somebody say
wow, thank you. While we’re very happy with that
number, we also are very aware of another number, 18 million. There are 18 million
veterans in our country today, and we only have
110,000 stories. But, guess what, that’s
where you come in. So we need your help to help us
complete this national archive. I don’t know if anybody
has heard, but there is a Native
American proverb that talks about it takes a million
voices to tell a single story. And that’s absolutely what
Veterans History Project is about. So one of the things I like
to say is there are a number of different ways that people
choose to share their story. And luckily the folks who had
started Veterans History Project eventually came to that
realization as well. Some people are very comfortable
talking on camera, talking and sharing an oral history,
some people not so much. Some people would
prefer to write it down. So what we have in front of you are our collection
minimum requirements. So in order to establish
a collection with Veterans History
Project you could do one of there things. Number one, you could
conduct an oral history with the veteran in your life. We do ask that the oral
histories be a minimum of 30 minutes. Anybody who says, oh my gosh,
that’s so long, don’t worry. We’ll help you with
the questions, and we’ve designed them in a way
to make sure that you can get to that 30 minute mark. The other way you could
establish a collection is through 20 pages or more or unpublished memoir,
journals or diaries. That’s ten or more
original photographs, pieces of two dimensional
artwork which are some of my favorites in the
collection, or letters. Once you qualify on
one of those three, that collection is
considered an open collection which means the minimums
no longer are required. So you could have a 30 minute, 32 minute oral history
and one photograph. That’s great, we love that. Or you could have ten letters and only a 15 minute
oral history. Any opportunity you have to
help make that collection that much more rich
and provide us that much more information
we absolutely adore it, and so do the researchers
that use our collections. So Veterans History
Project is designed in a way that it could be used
by members of Congress. They could set it
up in their district and start interviewing the
veterans within their lives. Or perhaps it’s a school. We ask that students tenth
grade or older are the ones who had participated as
far as an outreach method. Or maybe it’s just
an individual wanting to know how they could
interview their loved one. Well, there are a
number of different ways that you can participate. And in that slide we
actually have a picture of not only our brochure
but also our field kit. We have a couple of field kits
down at our table which is down at Hall B in the
Jefferson Building. And those field kits
actually take you step-by-step as to how somebody could
complete a Veterans History Project. They also have the
draft questions in there so they’re kind of important. Another thing that’s kind of
neat that we do with a lot of different school groups,
libraries, again, those members of Congress and organizations
that have a group of 25 people or more, if you have those 25
people or more you can email us and say that you’re interesting
in hosting a workshop. We are looking for 25 people
or more to go out there and to conduct those
interviews for us. And we will send a
trained oral historian from the Oral History
Association or the American Folklife Society
to you at no cost to you. We just want to be able
to give you those tools so that you can collect
these resources. Anybody catch that I
said the word original? Did you guys go to sleep on me? All right, just checking. If anybody caught the fact that
I had used the word original, yes, we do ask for
original content, but there is a good reason. The Library of Congress
as a humidity controlled and climate controlled
environment in which we hold all
of our collections. This is a particularly
interesting story. If you’re taking a look at the screen right now you
may see Albert John Carpenter who was a 19 year old
college student when he went over to France to
participate in the Great War. Now, Carpenter kept
a pocket diary. I purposely kept my
cell phone in my pocket so I could show you
the size of his diary. It’s about the size
our cell phones today. His diary starts, October,
the most eventful month of my life and he goes on. He talks about the artillery,
he talks about the money, he talks about the gassing,
he talks about everything that we know the
Great War to be about. And he comes home
with his diary, and he passes it
down to his son. And one day his son’s
wife, Shirley Carpenter, she says to the family that
they’re doing it a disservice. It’s all looseleaf,
it’s got some tears, it’s got some significant
water damage, honestly mostly just
from the elements. So we were the lucky repository who had received
this collection. And one of the things that we
were able to do was we were able to take it to our preservation
and conservation lab. The tears we were
able to repair those with Japanese tissue paper. The parts that nobody
could see because all of that perspiration was on it,
we were able to put a chemical on it and put it under
ultraviolet light. So for the first time
the family was able to read what was supposed
to be on that page. Again, it was housed
in humidity controlled and climate controlled
environment, and we’re very, very glad that it was. And we’re very, very, very glad that Shirley Carpenter had
the foresight to do that. Because as you can see from the
slide Hurricane Katrina paid her home a little bit of a visit. All of her precious
belongings were under five and a half feet of water. This diary and the story of Albert John Carpenter
would have been lost forever. This is just a picture to
show you what it really looked like so you can really
see that — you can for the first time
really understand what was supposed to be written on that. So one of the things we hear
all the time, in fact when I was over at the table this
morning I must have heard 10, 15 times from veterans
who had stopped by, I don’t really have
a story to tell. So my veterans out there
does anybody feel like that? Oh, I didn’t do much. I don’t have a story to tell. I don’t think I’ll meet
that 30 minute requirement. Well, I’d like to
argue with you on that. I feel like everyone out
there has a story to tell. The director of our project she
said she didn’t think she would reach that 30 minute minimum. Two and a half hours later we
learned she had a little bit more to say than
what she thought. At this point I’m
going to introduce you to Heather Sandler [phonetic]. Heather Sandler came from a
long line of family members who had participated
in the military so she wanted to be like them. But instead of Air Force
she chose the Navy. Heather Sandler had
served for ten years with the United States Navy. And her job was essentially
loading missiles and bombs on F18s. After her time in the
military Health started to work at the VA. And somebody there, a
volunteer, asked Heather, would you be willing
to sit down with me and share your oral history. Heather said the same
thing, I didn’t do much. I don’t have much to talk about. But just like Representative
Ron Kind, Heather had a family. And she knew that her two
sons had only seen her dress up in uniform once
for Veteran’s Day. So maybe she would do this, maybe she would participate
just for them. And as you can see
from the quote, although she barely wanted
to talk about her service to her husband and family,
never mind putting it out there for the entire world to view on
the web, my interview was one of the most cathartic
experiences I have ever had, and I no longer hide the
fact that I am a veteran. At this point we’re very excited
if anybody caught the date, the fact that we are
celebrating our 20th anniversary which happens to be
the 20th anniversary of the National Book
Festival next year. So we will see you all
back there next year. Veterans History
Project is doing a number of different really exciting
things surrounding the 20th anniversary. Our goal is to show to people that we have not just an
opportunity to connect with the veterans in your life, but we also have
110,000 different stories of individuals who
had participated. So you can use that
archive as a resource. So the first thing that we’re
doing is we are talking a little bit about the November
Art Showcase. So I would invite all of you to
check out our Facebook as well as our RSS and look at some of the really interesting
things we’re doing for that November Art Showcase. After that we have a
really unique opportunity, Harvey and Gina Pratt who had
worked on the National Museum of the American Indian Monument,
they’re going to come out and talk a little bit
about their inspiration. Let’s see, we are looking to
do a Music in the Arts Panel. And then in May, was anybody
here about five years ago, thank you, about five years
ago when we had that flyover, mass flyover of World
War II aircrafts? Well, we’re doing it again. And what’s really exciting
is while it was really, really great to see all of
these historic aircraft flying, we’re going to be able to
connect personal stories to each of those aircraft through
Veterans History Project. After that we do have a
really neat education panel. Educators are some
of my favorites. They always seem to come up
with really creative ways to use the collection. Not only is this a really
great resource for teachers to help teach students about
active listening and for them to take the little bit that
comes out in their history but to really make it
alive, but some of them, sometimes teachers, again,
can be very, very creative. And what I have noticed
from one teacher in particular is he has taken
the oral history component and given that to the
communications division. He then takes the audio
of that and gives it to the art department. And the art department
creates a piece which is then given
to the veteran. It’s just amazing. So we’ll have some really
great faculty who will come out and talk a little
bit more about that. And then in November, of course, we’ll have our large 20th
anniversary showcase followed by a monument walk. Just like what we’re doing with
the arsenal of democracy flyover where we’re connecting veterans
to the specific aircraft, we are also going to be
connecting the monuments that we see here in
D.C. on a regular basis and putting personal stories
to each and every one of those. Again, the November
Art Showcase. Now, one this I was
remiss about mentioning, and I think it’s really,
really neat, we have poets, we have writers, we have a
number of really great artists, potters who are coming
out, fiddle player. But we didn’t want to
forget about our friends in the culinary world. Remember I had mentioned
about the food? Everyone has a story
surrounding food. So what we are doing is we have
identified a couple different restaurants who are owned by
veterans, we’re asking them to search within our collection for something that
inspires them. And from that they can create
a new menu piece based off that veteran. The next step to that is
that they can participate in Veterans History Project
establishing a collection. And then we’ll ask them to talk about the full experience
on our blog. Little teaser for that
arsenal of democracy. You can see we have the aviator
log book which is, again, going to be tied to
the specific veterans and the specific aircrafts. Do you think we could
play that video? It didn’t show up. If not I’ll just keep talking. Is anybody tired of
hearing me talk yet? No? What I was hoping for was I
could condense everything I’ve talked about in the
past 20 minutes or so into about 30 seconds. We’ll see if it works.>>For two decades the Library of Congress Veterans History
Project has had a mission. To collect the stories and original materials
of U.S. veterans. If you would like to
contribute to this ongoing, nationwide effort,
visit www.loc.gov/vets. The Veterans History Project because their stories
are our stories.>>Kerry Ward: Thank you. That was just a little
sneak peek of what our PSA for 2020 is going to be. And the tag line is because
their stories are our stories. And, again, although we
have 110,000 stories, every one of those stories
adds to this unique tapestry that makes up our
national history. So one of the questions
we get a lot is, well, I’ve already participated,
I’ve already done a little bit of this, I’ve already
done a little bit of that. Anything you can add to
that collection to make it that much more rich
is always appreciated. So at this point I’m going
to talk a little about, well, what happens with the
collections that are, you know, created and then submitted over
to the Veterans History Project? Does anybody have any ideas? Okay. Well, they’re
used on a regular basis. In fact, that first image that you see actually features
the reading room that we use. The Veterans History
Project is part of the American Folklife
Center reading room. And we serve collections to
researchers, documentarians, students, just anybody
who has a general interest on a weekly basis. The resources available on our
website, which is loc.govvets, they’re used every single day. But there’s something
that’s really, really important
about all of that. When you’re filling out the
information in the field kit, there comes to a release form. And about the second
or third paragraph on that release form
talks about copyright. I think the last presentation we
just gave was about copyright, so it’s kind of fun that I
get to follow up with this. One of the things that Veterans
History Project maintains is the fact that the veteran
and the next of kin maintain that copyright. So if somebody wants to use that
collection, and we’ve worked with Ken Burns on the
war and the Vietnam, and we have over 600
different publications that site Veterans History
Project right now, if they want to use it they’ve got
to go through you. One more really quick story about how the collections
have been used. Has anybody read
the book Code Girls? Nobody? One, two,
okay, cook, excellent. So you’re familiar
with Liza Mundy. So during World War II a lot of
the men were being shipped out. And we were needing
people to break code. So what happened was they
turned to our universities. And they identified women who showed an infinity
to math and science. And these women received this
little secret message asking two simple questions. Are you good at puzzles, and
are you engaged to be married? If they answered correctly, they
could have been chosen for part of this top secret code
breaking mechanism. These women were
supposed to tell people that they were secretaries,
and many of them did. Many of them kept their
secret for their whole life. Some of them started to
share here and there. Because of Liza Mundy
she has been able to honor these hidden figures because of this lovely
book Code Girls. And about a year
after her book came out we said how come we’ve
never had a code girl’s reunion, right? So a couple months ago we
had the first ever code girl’s reunion. We had five of the
original code girls come out and share their experiences. We also had a number of different family
members who had come out. Anybody know Bill
Nye the Science Guy? His mom was a code girl. I guess we can say he got the
science from his mom, right? What’s really neat is when
Bill Nye shares about his mom, she kept the secret for
as long as she could. It wasn’t until they were
sitting around the kitchen table and somebody had said something about breaking code during World
War II that she finally lost it and spilled the beans. We also have a docent at the library whose
mother was a code girl. And she didn’t want to tell
people that she was a secretary, so she chose another
fib if you will, she told everyone she
was a showgirl instead. I guess it got no questions. After you say you’re a showgirl
people leave that alone. But those are just a couple
ways that the collections that you can help
create will be used. You can see that
middle picture shows — it’s not just what I had
talked about right now. But occasionally we have an
opportunity in the Library and over at the Capitol
Visitors Center to share about collections. There was a gentleman by the
name of William Barner — excuse me, William Barnes. And William Barnes was
a doctor in Virginia. And after Pearl Harbor
he recognized that his skills would be needed. So he enlisted in the Army. And unfortunately he was
on one of the first waves on Omaha Beach and
he had lost his life. His son, Bob, Jr., had
donated his collection. His collection consists
of letters back and forth to his mother. It consists of photographs. It also consists of Father’s
Day cards that never made it. Bob, Jr. never had an
opportunity to know his father. But because of the Veteran’s
History Project he was able to share the little bit
the little bit that he knew about his father
because it was featured over at the Capitol Visitors
Center with all of the visitors who came in to view
that collection. Now, lastly, I just want
to talk about the fact that Veterans History
Project is a tremendous way to honor the veterans
within your life. Now, I don’t know about
you, but it’s not every day that somebody comes to
me and asks for me to sit down for 30 minutes
and tell my life story. In doing so you connect
with an individual in a completely different way. Is anyone familiar with the
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles story? Man, I’m telling you,
so many stories today. Lieutenant Colonel Charles
Kettles was a UH-1D Huey helicopter pilot during Vietnam. And he had noticed
that there was a unit that had been ambushed. And he volunteered to go in and recovery them
as best as he could. In fact, he was ordered to
stand down at a certain point. But he went back three times. Now, Charles Kettles is, once
again, one of those veterans who said, oh I don’t know, I mean I’ve shared
my story before. Well, Charles Kettles sat
down with his interviewer in Ypsilanti, and the
interviewer could not believe his ears. What do you mean you
went back three times? How many men did you save? Oh, I don’t know, maybe 40. So the interviewer took it
upon himself to talk to some of those individuals
who he had helped save. He reached out to them, and
everyone that he could get ahold of said I would not be
here today if it was not for Lieutenant Colonel
Charles Kettles. So those interviews paired with
some Congressional support led to the photo that you see
down here in the corner. Fifty years after the fact
Charles Kettles finally received our nation’s highest
award, the Medal of Honor. And while this is the exception, it really does highlight
the fact of what people do when they collect these stories. So at this point I would like
to ask if we have any questions, and with the questions
if everybody could choose to come up to the microphone.>>Good afternoon.>>Kerry Ward: Good afternoon.>>In 1987 my family
lost our patriarch, and he planned Operation Torch. He had tape upon tape upon tape,
cassette tapes that he submitted where he requested
that the executor turn over to the Library of Congress. That person did so before the
family could hear the stories. How do I find them? I’ve been looking for years.>>Kerry Ward: So two things. Number one, we will
definitely talk afterwards. Number two, you brought
up a really good point. Our website which, of course,
is the very last one I hit, our website is loc.govvets. I would suggest that’s the first
point to try to look and see if we can find anything. The next place would be just
the general library archives. And we can look on
that together. Thirdly, I want to talk a
little bit about a resolution that passed in November 2016. It’s called the Gold
Star Family Voices Act. I don’t know if you’re
familiar with that. Gold Star families
are individuals who have lost a loved
one during a time of war.>>You can find them when you
go to the World War II Memorial, and the Gold Star Wall. We found our Gold Star,
my grandfather’s brother, but we can’t find my
grandfather’s stories.>>Kerry Ward: So just to share, we have always accepted
posthumous submissions. However, in the instance of our Gold Star families we now
have an opportunity to ask them to be the mouthpiece
for their fallen hero. We do have some separate
guidelines and separate questions that
are very specific to you. And so we will talk afterwards so that we can record
your perspective, and you can share
who your father was. Thanks.>>So with so many veteran
organizations that are out there and the VA system, I’m a
vet myself having retired from the Navy, and going to the VA you see the
guys sitting there waiting for their medications, their
prescriptions to be filled. Has this been a resource that
we’ve looked at trying to use to get people to do the
Veterans History Project?>>Kerry Ward: Absolutely. Basically any which way that
we can we always suggest things like that. I had mentioned some of the
individuals and organizations that we had worked with. And, in fact, again,
back down in Hall B at our table there was a
young lady who came up, she was about 18 years old,
and she said I’d really like to participate, but
the only veteran I knew has passed away. Guess where we told her she
could go for a resource? The other thing that we do have
is I would absolutely encourage everybody to take a peek at
our website, because every so often we’re not
the right repository. You may have noticed I didn’t
mention uniforms or medals. We can’t accept that. However, we have a lot of really
great partner organizations that are alternate repositories that are listed right
there on the website. Thank you.>>You may have already answered
this question, but do you take in stories for vets
who are deceased?>>Kerry Ward: Yes.>>You do.>>Kerry Ward: We do. So there are a number
of different ways that somebody could
submit a collection. In the case of posthumous
submissions I had mentioned that we have collections ranging from World War I up
through conflicts. And believe it or not we still
occasionally will get World War I collections. One that we got just last
November was a Gold Star daughter, and she had
shared some letters that her father had written. With that the letters
were back and forth between family members. But included in that was a
letter from the Red Cross. And it talked about where
her father was buried and what flowers
were planted near it. This was really important
for her. She’s 92 years old now. And she’s the last in her line. And she wanted to make sure that
this would be properly preserved so that somebody would be out
there to have this resource and to appreciate her
father the way she did. Thank you.>>Hi.>>Kerry Ward: Hi.>>I really appreciate
your organization and this presentation. It’s been great. I work at an elementary
school and a middle school. And I’m just wondering if
you ever receive interviews that younger children have done, or if you have specific
questions for them? If not, if you have
any recommendations about involving students in
your organization in any way.>>Kerry Ward: So
we do typically ask if somebody is going
to be sitting down and conducting an interview with
a veteran, one of the things that we talk about when
we do those big workshops, they’re typically about
two and a half hours long, I wanted to give you guys
the Reader’s Digest version if you will, but we talk about what would be
appropriate questions to ask and what are inappropriate
questions to ask. We do have those
draft questions, but they are just a template. They are not a checklist. And so we want for people
to ask followup questions. Sometimes the best question
to ask is what happened next. As far as children younger,
we have been working with our education
division to develop things that would be more
pertinent to them. But I would be more than
happy to share my colleague over in the education
division’s name, and we can talk about things that would
be more appropriate for kids of that age.>>Thank you.>>Kerry Ward: Thank you.>>Hi, I have a copy of my grandfather’s World
War I journal that he wrote. The original is with
my cousin who may or may not be willing
to share it. Can I submit the
copy that I have? I made a xerox from
his original journal.>>Kerry Ward: I
wish I could say yes. The challenge with that is because of our lovely
conservation and preservation division we’re
also held to those standards. So it’s a bit of a
double edged sword for us. Because we have the preservation
division to help make sure all of those things are properly
cared for as I had mentioned with the Albert John
Carpenter diary where we used the Japanese
tissue paper, that whole thing, we’re also held to
those standards. So when it comes to copies
it’s really hard for us to keep those standards
where they are. That being said, there
are things that we can do. We do have some rules in place. But I’m sure we can
talk about a way that maybe it could
be properly cared for. The other thing with
our preservation and conservation office is
I would strongly suggest that you are a relative
who owns the original. Take a look at their
website, the preservation and conservation website. Because it talks about ways
to care for things like that. You know, the fibers in
paper have changed a lot over the years, and
we want to make sure that it stands the test of time.>>Thank you.>>Kerry Ward: Thank you.>>Hello. I was wondering
if you’re ever in contact with other universities that
may require projects like this? So, for instance, the
University of Maine about 18 years ago
required me for a class to record a 30 minute
interview with my father about his experience in Vietnam. That interview was done on
like old time audio tapes so I only have one,
and they have it. They took my only copy
of it for a project. So I was wondering if Library
of Congress ever reaches out to other universities to
see if they have veteran stories within their own, and then
maybe could work together to get ahold of them.>>Kerry Ward: Yeah, absolutely. So to answer your questions
yes is the short answer. We work with a number of
different organizations, and we have found that this is
a wonderful project for colleges and community colleges
to participate in as well as Boy Scouts and
high school students. So yes we do. I may be interested to find
out more from you to see if that’s one that we have
currently in our archives. Anybody who is curious
if an organization or an individual has already
participated we can always take a peek on the website,
once again loc.govvets. We have a really
great search bar. And you can search not just the
veteran who had participated, the person who interviewed,
you could search the states. You could see how many different
veterans had interviewed in that state. You could even see
organizational affiliations.>>Thank you.>>Kerry Ward: Thank you.>>Hi. This is a really
exciting program you’re running. I’m just curious are there any
opportunities for volunteers to work on the program
here in D.C.?>>Kerry Ward: Absolutely. So I love that you asked that because honestly our
program is based on volunteers. And what we’re asking for you
to do is to take the veteran in your life or community
and to use something as simple as your cell phone. Or you could use a tablet. But you can sit down with them
and you can review the field kit that we have, and then you can
ask those specific questions. So absolutely.>>Thanks.>>Kerry Ward: Thank you. Maybe one more? Nope? Anyone else? Going once. Yes? [ Inaudible Audience Question ] I’m sorry I missed it. [Inaudible Audience
Question] Yes, yes, we have other information
and people over at the table. Again, Hall B, we’re
in the Jefferson area. We have a bright
purple tablecloth because purple is the colors of
all the service units combined so it will be easy
enough to find us. Well, at this point I just want
to thank you all for coming and choosing to be here today. And I hope you enjoy the rest
of the National Book Festival.