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Veterans History Project (VHP): Exploring the Collections

Understanding VHP Collections

This section of the guide will provide you with the information you need in order to understand how Veterans History Project (VHP) collections are organized and what is available online.

How VHP Collections Work

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American veterans. Please note that VHP does not have information about veterans unless they have participated in the Veterans History Project.

VHP collects the following material formats:

  • audio- or video-recorded oral history interviews
  • personal correspondence
  • photographs
  • memoirs
  • diaries
  • creative works

VHP also collects oral histories with Gold Star Family members, defined as a parent, spouse, sibling, or child (over the age of 18) of members of the US Armed Forces who died as a result of their service during a period of war. You can find more detailed information about the basic requirements for a collection and the kinds of material that VHP accepts at VHP's website.

VHP organizes these oral history interviews and associated narrative materials into named after the veteran whose experiences they reflect. For example, the Vernon E. Wickman Collection includes a video oral history interview with Wickman as well as photographs, correspondence, and a map which date from Wickman's time in the military.

A screenshot of the Vernon E. Wickman VHP Collection Record.

VHP Collection Records

When you use the Veterans History Project (VHP) online database, you will be directed to collections which meet your search criteria.

Each VHP collection record includes the collection number, biographical information about the veteran and their military service history, information about the materials in the collection, and a link to any digitized collection materials.

For example, take a look at the Toby Thelma Gilman Alterman collection record below.

A screenshot of the Toby Thelma Gilman Alternam VHP Collection Record.

On the left-hand side of the collection record, you will see the "Biographical Information" section. This section contains information about the veteran who donated the collection, including demographic information such as race and gender, as well as information about the veteran's service history including branch of service, the war or conflicts they served in, geographical locations of their service, and other data.

On the right-hand side of the collection record, you will see the "Collection Information" section. This section contains information about the materials in the veteran's collection, including a list of specific types of material resources, information about interviewers for oral history interviews, information about collection donors, and Library of Congress subject headings (PDF) which help categorize the collection. If some or all of the collection has been digitized, you will also see a button reading "VIEW DIGITIZED COLLECTIONS." (For more information on digitized collections, see the "VHP Collections Available Online" section of this guide.)

VHP Collection Numbers

Cropped version of a Veterans History Project collection record, with yellow highlighting around the collection number.
Above: Highlighted collection number for Rothacker Childs Smith Collection.

Every collection held by the Veterans History Project (VHP) has a collection number (see detail, right). The general format for a VHP collection number is AFC/2001/001/#####, where the last five or six digits are the collection ID number.

Each veteran is assigned a unique collection ID number, which is used by VHP staff to organize collections so that researchers can access them in the future. If a veteran has made multiple donations to the Veterans History Project, each donation may have a separate collection number.

AFC/2001/001/ refers to the "accession number" of the entire Veterans History Project (VHP is part of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress). The project as a whole was the first accession (or group of materials acquired at the same time) of the year 2001, when VHP was founded.

VHP Collections Available Online

Each VHP collection receives an online Biographical Information and Service History record, which includes the participant’s name, affiliation and military service details.

Some collections include content that is made available online. These collections are identified by the presence of a button with the text "View Digitized Collection." At this time, approximately 50 percent of the VHP collections have been fully or partially digitized and can be viewed online. If the Biographical Information and Service History record does not include a VIEW DIGITIZED COLLECTION button, then it is not available for online viewing, and you will need to schedule an appointment to view the materials onsite at the Library of Congress.

Here's a sample of a collection with materials that are viewable online. The yellow arrow points to the VIEW DIGITIZED COLLECTION button, which indicates that some portion of the collection is viewable online. In the case of the Daniel Kahikina Akaka Collection (pictured in the screenshot below), if you click on that button, the link will take you to the digitized collection record, where you can view the veteran's oral history. At this time, the periodical, biographical information, and photographs in the Daniel Kahikina Akaka Collection have not yet been made available online.

A screenshot of the Daniel Kahikina Akaka digitized collection record, with a yellow arrow pointing to the "View Digitized Collection" button.