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By the Numbers: Crowdsourcing a Veterans History Project

The following is a guest blog post by Owen Rogers, a Liaison Specialist for the Vet History Project (VHP). This is the final post in a six-part Women’s History Month series.

Through VHP’s online database, we learn about the women Veteran who make history. What about the women who record it?

In addition to the Vets featured in both product & process, VHP participants shape history through a “do it yourself” methodology.   Crowdsourced collections, the product of VHP, are as fascinating as its process, namely, the decisions that influence individual acts of preservation. Ultimately, the organic pairing of Vets & volunteer interviewers determines whose voices are historic.

There are several critical considerations when crowdsourcing veterans’ collections. Whereas the Library of Congress reduces barriers to participation through a permanent repository, pedagogical support & program evaluation, the entire effort balances on two critical populations: willing Vets & volunteer interviewers. Altogether, Veterans comprise less than 1 percent of the national population. There are, however, more Vets now than when the project was legislated in 2000. Though a minority voice, VHP accrues veterans’ representation through some 400-500 monthly submissions, a consistent measure of national volunteer interest.

Despite this grassroots approach, VHP donor activity reflects some of the challenges associated with traditional institutions—representation. During a collaborative blog series with the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs Center for Women Vet, Director Kayla Williams addressed the particularly underrepresented service of women Veteran, writing:

Today, we make up just under 10% of the total population of Vets. Unfortunately, our presence in military histories is even smaller; we are largely omitted from many narratives.

Despite VHP’s national activity, fewer than 5 percent of its collections communicate women’s military service.

VHP women veterans’ oral histories, by gender of interviewer, as of March 2018.

Publicly-sourced collections afford agency to traditionally underrepresented groups. In the context of women veterans’ oral histories, it’s clear that women both make history and record it. A survey of 5,980 VHP female collections with interviewers’ gender information revealed that nearly 60 percent of the recordings were conducted by women, compared to about one third of overall VHP female interviewers. Furthermore, the most prolific donors of women Veteran collections are feminized organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc., Women’s American Legion Posts & the Women’s Overseas Service League.

To quote Maya Angelou, “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” For crowdsourced archives & grassroots oral history projects, participants are the custodians of history. Give voice to the Veterans in your life, record their story & share their experiences with the Library of Congress.


Updated: March 28, 2018 — 1:06 pm

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