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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.

What Does the Veterans History Project Collect?

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 we accept in the "How to Participate" section of the VHP website.

What is a VHP Collection?

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 digitized audio oral history interview with Wickman.

The upper portion of the record for a veteran includes a thumbnail image (either of a photo from the collection, a screenshot from an oral history, or, in this case, the Library's VHP icon); and, the "Veterans History Project Service Summary" as show in the screenshot below from the Vernon E. Wickman Collection (AFC/2001/001/82007):

Screenshot of Vernon E. Wickman Collection (upper portion of the display)

The interview can be played directly from the collection landing page by clicking on the forward arrow in the player. It is also possible to download the audio interview as an MP3 file from the Download: menu by selecting the Go button.

VHP Collection Metadata

When you use the Veterans History Project (VHP) Collection, 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 "About this item" section on the "Item Record" for the Toby Thelma Gilman Alterman collection pictured in the screenshot below:

Metadata from a Veterans History Project collection

On the left-hand side of the screen, you will first see "Biographical Information" about the person:

  • Title - Official "title" of the collection (includes the name of the veteran)
  • Names - All variant names of the veteran submitted with the collection items
  • State of Birth - Two-letter state abbreviation of the birth state of the veterans
  • Home State - Two-letter state abbreviation of the home state of the veterans
  • Headings - Subject headings assigned to the veteran's collection; generally includes the Library of Congress authorized heading for the "war or conflict" followed by the subdivision "Personal Narrative," the name heading for the veteran, and the subject heading for the "branch of service"
  • Repository - official name of the Veterans History Project Collection at the Library of Congress
  • Gender - this data is included if provided by the veteran

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.