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Veterans History Project (VHP): Exploring the Collections

Common Questions About Digitized Collections

In order to make our collections as accessible as possible, we have a regular ongoing process of digitizing the materials we receive. To digitize a collection means to create a digital version of the item. In the case of photographs or personal letters, this process includes scanning the material; in the case of an oral history, it means creating a digital file of the audio or video recording. These digital collections are then placed on our website. The digitized material is accessible via our online database.

What gets digitized?

The Veterans History Project selects collections for digitization based upon several factors, such as curatorial or preservation needs. A small number of collections are individually selected for digitization, either because we plan to use them in one of our Experiencing War web features, or because we have experienced or anticipate a high level of research interest. We also digitize for preservation purposes. Items that are fragile, stored on an obsolete format (such as microcassette or VHS) or might be damaged by frequent handling by researchers, are high priorities for digitization.

At this time, about 50 percent of the collections in VHP contain some digitized component and can be viewed online. Collections that include digitized content are identified by a VIEW DIGITIZED COLLECTION button.

Why are some collections partially digitized?

Historically, VHP has prioritized digitizing audio and video materials because they rapidly become obsolete/unusable and therefore collection materials will be lost. In the interest of digitizing as many oral history interviews as possible, at times, we have prioritized digitizing only the a/v recording within a collection, and have not digitized associated materials such as photographs or transcripts.

This is why, in searching our online database for digitized collection materials, you may come across collections that are listed as digitized, but that may contain non-digitized components.

How long does digitization take?

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide a time frame for when material might be digitized in the future. Because we digitize for preservation purposes, collections are not digitized in the order in which they are received, and there is no way to accurately predict when a collection might be viewable online in the future.

Please keep in mind that this is the case for both analog and "born-digital" materials (that is, items such as photographs taken with digital cameras, or digital video recordings). Because we must digitize all of our collection materials to fit within Library of Congress technical specifications, digital materials are no easier to present online than analog materials.

Just because a collection is not viewable online does not mean that it is inaccessible. All collections can be viewed by the general public in the American& Folklife Center Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Can I publish or exhibit digitized collections?

Yes. Please note that all VHP participants retain the copyright to their materials; therefore, researchers must obtain permission from the veteran (or their next of kin) before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication. VHP cannot grant or deny this permission, but may be able to help facilitate getting in touch with a veteran so that they may grant permission for their material to be used.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of a collection for use in publication or exhibition, please contact VHP at [email protected] or 888-371-5848. Please view the For Researchers section of our website for more information about using VHP collections.