OHA members work with Veterans to document experiences


Barbara W. Sommer, author of Doing Veterans Oral History, presenting a copy of the pamphlet to Alex Schueller, Constituent Services Representative, Academy Nominations Coordinator, and State Veterans’ Lead for the office of Senator Al Franken (D-MN).


As World War II veterans age and thousands of veterans return home from active duty, documenting their experiences has become increasingly important. Many OHA members are involved with projects to record and archive veterans’ stories. OHA has also partnered with the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress to provide leaders for workshops that teach citizens how to conduct oral histories with vets.  Thanks to the following members for leading recent workshops: Ann Smith and Deborah Hendrix  — two workshops in Gainesville, Florida; Barb Sommer — workshops in Parma and Clinton, Ohio; Cyns Nelson — in Camp Rilea, Oregon; and Kate Brenner — in Springfield, Massachusetts.

OHA has a great resource for oral historians interested in documenting veterans’ experiences. Doing Veterans Oral History, by Barbara W. Sommer, was published last fall as a collaboration between the Oral History Association and the Library of Congress. The 96-page, easy-to-use pamphlet, includes an introduction to oral history and a detailed discussion of what oral historians need to do before, during and after an interview. It also includes a chapter with information and recommendations for high school and college teachers who want their students to conduct oral histories with veterans.

In particular, the pamphlet offers detailed suggestions on how to develop interview questions. It illustrates the difference between identifying overarching themes, such as daily life in the military, and specific topics within those themes, such as food, clothing, shelter, friendships, recreation, hardships and the like.

The pamphlet also contains information on dealing with sensitive issues and the practical and ethical concerns associated with interviewing veterans who experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition, detailed appendices contain sample legal release forms, biographical information forms, an interview summary form, sample correspondence and information about media and format standards the Library of Congress will accept for archiving interviews with veterans.

Doing Veterans Oral History and other pamphlets in the OHA series are all available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  The list price for Doing Veterans Oral History is $15.

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