Veterans History Project

About the Veterans History Project

The United States Congress introduced legislation to create the Veterans History Project (VHP) in 2000 as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The Project unites diverse communities around a common purpose: collecting, preserving and making accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The Veterans History Project has become the largest oral history archive in the nation, with more than 108,000 collections, including audio and video taped interviews as well as original photographs, illustrations, letters, diaries and other personal documents.

Add to VHP Collections!

VHP includes veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces — and are no longer serving. Under the Gold Star Family Voices Act in also includes — immediate family members (parent, spouse, sibling, or child) or “members of the Armed Forces who died as a result of their service.”

Get Involved!

As a representative serving thousands of veterans, Congresswoman Shalala would like to increase the amount of veteran stories recorded. Congresswoman Shalala, her staff, and volunteers will be able to interview wartime veterans throughout the year to capture more Miami stories.

You need no prior training or connection with the veteran military community to participate in the project. Constituents of all backgrounds are welcome.

How can you get involved?
You can contribute to this legacy by...

Interviewing a veteran:

  • Sitting down with a veteran and conducting a video- or audio-recorded interview about his or her military service.
  • Submitting a collection of original photographs or documents that tells a veteran's story from his or her perspective, even if the veteran is deceased or unable to share an oral history.
  • Contacting a veteran you know and asking if they would share their story for the historical record.        

Frequently Asked Questions

Background

  • What is the Veterans History Project?

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of United States military veterans from World War I through the present. In addition to audio- and video-recorded oral history interviews, VHP accepts memoirs and collections of original photographs, letters, diaries, maps and other historical documents from veterans who served in the US armed services from World War I through the present. The Project makes accessible the materials that comprise this important national archive, which contains submissions from every state, and includes the US territories. VHP relies on volunteers, both individuals and organizations, throughout the nation to contribute veterans’ stories to VHP.

VHP also collects oral histories with Gold Star Family members, defined 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.

  • What is an oral history?

Many of the narratives in our collection take the form of an oral history interview. The Oral History Association offers this definition:

“Oral history refers both to a method of recording and preserving oral testimony and to the product of that process. It begins with an audio or video recording of a first-person account made by an interviewer with an interviewee (also referred to as narrator), both of whom have the conscious intention of creating a permanent record to contribute to an understanding of the past. A verbal document, the oral history, results from this process and is preserved and made available in different forms to other users, researchers, and the public.”

  • How did the Veterans History Project start?

The United States Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000. The authorizing legislation (Public Law 106-380 [PDF, 197 KB]), sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ron Kind, Amo Houghton and Steny Hoyer and U.S. Senators Max Cleland and Chuck Hagel, received unanimous support and was signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton on October 27, 2000.

  • Who retains copyright of donated collections?

All Veterans History Project participants (both interviewees and interviewers) retain the copyright to their materials. As a publicly supported institution, the Library of Congress generally does not own rights to material in its collections. Permissions need to be obtained before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication.

Participation

  • How do I locate veterans to interview?

Many of our participants choose to interview friends or family members who have served in the military. If you do not know a veteran personally, local veterans service organizations, a local or regional Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, a senior center or a retirement community are good places to meet veterans who might be interested in sharing their story.

  • Who is eligible to submit their service story to the Veterans History Project (VHP)?

Veterans who served in the U.S. military, in any capacity, from WWI to the present, regardless of branch or rank, and are no longer serving are eligible. VHP accepts the stories of veterans as defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs: “A person who served in the active military service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” 

  • Who conducts the interview?

Individual volunteers, and volunteers from organizations around the country, interview veterans and collect first person narratives. Any individual or organization may participate, including family members and friends of veterans, students age 15 or older, high school and university educators, authors, veterans service organizations, places of worship, retirement communities, Scout troops, local businesses and professional associations.

  • I am a veteran and would like to submit an oral history interview to the Veterans History Project. Is there someone in my area who could interview me? 

The Veterans History Project does not coordinate individual or community interviews. We encourage those interested to reach out to family members and friends, local schools or universities, veterans service organizations, places of worship, retirement communities, Scout troops, local businesses or professional associations to facilitate new interviews.

  • Can I share the story of a deceased veteran?

Yes. The Veterans History Project (VHP) accepts collections of original, firsthand materials (such as photographs, memoirs, correspondence, etc.) on behalf of deceased veterans. Please note: we do not accept oral history interviews with family members of deceased veterans, except in the case of those collected under the auspices of the Gold Star Voices Act.  We can accept the “proxy” oral history if there are additional original materials that meet our minimum requirements. The Veteran’s Release Form [PDF, 122 KB] may be signed by the veteran’s power of attorney, estate executor or legal heir. Any materials submitted on behalf of a deceased veteran must be accompanied by all VHP required forms and meet our minimum collecting standards. Please see What We Collect.

  • How can Scout Troops participate?

The Veterans History Project (VHP) provides an ideal opportunity for a Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Service Project or Girls Scouts Gold Award Project. Scouts seeking to earn their Eagle badge or Gold Award typically submit eight to 15 VHP interviews following special guidelines designed just for them.

  • Can students record interviews?

Students and youth groups throughout the United States have contributed significantly to the Veterans History Project. We require participation of students 10th grade and above. Due to the sensitive nature of the Gold Star oral histories, the Veterans History Project requires a minimum age of 18 for both the interviewers and the interviewees.

  • Is there a deadline for participating in the Veterans History Project?

No. The Veterans History Project is an ongoing program and continues to be supported by the United States Congress. While there is no deadline to submit materials, we encourage you to submit collections to VHP as soon as possible after you compile them. Veterans and their families are eager for their interviews to be included in the Library of Congress; therefore, the sooner items are submitted to VHP, the sooner we are able to process them into the VHP collection.

Please note, if you participate in VHP via a volunteer organization, e.g., school, university, DAR, VFW, etc., VHP will not be able to provide you with the status of your collection until we receive your materials from that organization.