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Preservation Week, April 21-17, 2013 (Experiencing War, Stories from the Veterans History Project, Library of Congress)
The American Library Association and libraries across the country celebrate Preservation Week each year in April. But every day, the Veterans History Project works to collect, preserve, and make accessible the first-hand accounts of America’s veterans. Here are seven collections that represent the wide variety of concerns that must be addressed when preserving these important records.

Image: Albert John CarpenterAlbert John Carpenter

During the month of October, 1918, Army Private Albert John Carpenter kept a diary of his experiences, documenting what he called “the most eventful month of [his] life.” Though he may have written much more, 84 years later, these few water-damaged pages were all that remained with the Carpenter family.

In 2002, Private Carpenter's daughter-in-law donated the diary to the Veterans History Project to ensure that it would be available for future generations, and in doing so, unknowingly protected the material from Hurricane Rita. The storm left five and a half feet of standing water in her home, and would surely have destroyed the diary had it not been safely housed 1,000 miles away at the Library of Congress. In 2011, Albert Carpenter's grandson, Tom, wrote to his aunt, “I am so grateful to have a copy of Grandfather Carpenter's diary. The fact that you have preserved it and shared it with the Veterans History Project will undoubtedly help others learn—as it has helped me—about our nation's key role in the ‘War to End All Wars.’”

Image: Rex V. BixbyRex V. Bixby

Created by Army Lieutenant Rex Bixby in 1918, this scrapbook documents the veteran's experience as a pilot serving stateside during World War I. The scrapbook was held by family members for more than eight decades, before being donated to the Veterans History Project, where it has undergone extensive preservation treatment by the Library of Congress Conservation Division staff.

In images of Lieutenant Bixby’s scrapbook, created prior to conservation treatment, Bixby’s individual experience and unique view of the early days of military aviation are evident, as are the brittle newspaper clippings, damaged pages, and loose photos. Not evident in these images is the intensive work that has since been completed by the Library's preservation staff. All photos have been cleaned and the aged, brittle newspaper clippings have been photocopied for preservation. Potentially damaging adhesive tape has been removed, loose photographs were re-adhered with a reversible, water-based adhesive, and broken pages have been repaired with archival paper. Finally, the scrapbook has been rebound and housed in a custom-fit box.

Image: Jon Thomas PoschJon Thomas Posch

Interviewed by his young daughter in 2006, Lieutenant Commander Jon Thomas Posch recounts his experiences in the Navy as an Electronic Reconnaissance Officer during the Persian Gulf War.

Like all interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project, the original DVD recording of Lieutenant Commander Posch’s interview is housed at the Library of Congress. However, as part of a pilot project to improve the long-term preservation of our digital assets, a copy of the digital file is stored on a Library server, and a second copy of the recording has been transferred to the National Audio Video Conservation Center (NAVCC), a state-of-the-art facility where the Library of Congress acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings. As new audio and video formats are developed, and older formats become obsolete, the advanced preservation practices at NAVCC will allow for continued access to materials for generations to come.

Image: Chadwick StorlieChadwick Storlie

As he served in the Middle East during the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army Major Chadwick Storlie wrote regular emails to his wife, Deborah, describing living conditions, the beginning of the Iraqi insurgency, his duties, and his day-to-day life. In 2006, as he prepared to share his story, Major Storlie compiled a collection of his emails and donated hard copies to the Veterans History Project.

Electronically archiving email can be a worthwhile effort, but printing hard copies of selected correspondence is a simple measure that veterans and their families can take to preserve and provide easy access to their most valued pieces of digital correspondence.

Image: Christine E. LongChristine E. Long

Like each of the thousands of oral history interviews held by the Veteran’s History Project, Christine Long’s interview captures a unique story that only she can tell. As one of the few African-American women to have served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Staff Sergeant Long’s story is an invaluable piece of American history.

Collected by the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, Staff Sergeant Long’s story could have been lost forever. When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, in October 2012, more than five feet of water poured into the museum, damaging artifacts, documents, paintings, and the museum’s oral history collections. However, more than 240 oral history interviews held by the museum are also held by the Veterans History Project, donated by the National Guard Militia Museum to help ensure that they would be preserved and accessible to a wide audience.

Image: Mark Ryan BlackMark Ryan Black

As he served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam, Lance Corporal Mark Ryan Black recorded his experiences in photographs and in correspondence to his parents—from his first letter, written as he traveled to boot camp, to his last, an audio letter recorded just days before he was killed in action.

In an effort to preserve their son’s memory in the years after his death, Lance Corporal Black’s parents compiled his photographs and letters to share with friends and family. But, as his father wrote, after many years, they found themselves wondering “What were we to do with it all? … Our family cannot continue to share and preserve his collection forever. The VHP is the perfect home for sharing and preservation. There his collection has a permanent home, enabling sharing with all Americans, which would be the ultimate purpose for our son’s inspired service and sacrifice to our great country.”

Image: Allan LevinAllan Levin

As he served with the Army in Vietnam, Allan Levin recorded his experiences on virtually every medium of the day – he wrote letters, took photographs, shot home movies on 8mm film, and recorded audio letters to his friends and family. These materials provide incredible insight into the sights, sounds, and thoughts of a soldier on the ground in Vietnam, but more than 40 years later, audio and film recording technology had grown and changed, and the audiovisual formats included in the collection had become obsolete and difficult to access.

To ensure that future generations would be able to learn from this rich collection, The Library of Congress digitized Staff Sergeant Levin’s audio and film recordings, making the material available online, and retaining preservation quality copies on-site.

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  April 2, 2013
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