Grand Valley State University(GVSU) in Allendale, Michigan has been preserving oral histories since 2006. The history department and GVSU library in partnership with the Library of Congress have been collecting the stories of combat and non combat veterans and civilian witnesses over the past nine years.
The Veterans History Project is a digital collection of interviews with people who served during war time, whether one saw combat or not. It includes veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Civilians have been interviewed as well. Stories have been collected from workers in the war industry, aid workers, peace activists, and civilian contractors.
Interviews have been conducted throughout West Michigan. All interviews have been videotaped and are archived at Grand Valley State University and the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress has other oral histories besides the ones from the GVSU project.
Currently, Grand Valley State University has conducted over 1200 interviews, most which are available at their website under digital collections. Some of the interviews are available on I-Tunes, as well.
The Veterans Collection is another digital collection that is available at Grand Valley State University. This collection has papers pertaining to World War I and World War II. This collection was gathered, in part, through the work of the Veterans History Project. Information found in this collection includes, photographs, correspondence, and a scrapbook, This is an ongoing project of Grand Valley State University.
The oral history interviews has led Grand Valley State University into creating documentaries. There are three documentaries so far:
- Nightmare in New Guinea is the story of those who served in the 126th Infantry, 32nd Red Arrow division during World War II in New Guinea.
- Up from the Bottoms is the story of the migration of African Americans to Muskegon, Michigan during World War II.
- A Team of our Own is the story of the All American Girls Profession Baseball League, that played from 1943 to 1954. 47 oral histories were conducted with for this documentary.
Another part of the Veterans History Project is education outreach to schools. Training is provided to students who are interested in learning how to conduct interviews. Plus, presentations and materials are available to teachers interested in including Veterans History as part of their curriculum.
Currently, there are 23 digital collections available at Grand Valley State Universities website, many of them that would be of interest to family history researchers. I have written about three of them. Some of the other collections include Civil War and Slavery Collection, Grand Valley State University photographs and publication, 15th Century printing, Navy Recognition Training Slides, Grand Rapids Oral Histories, other photographs and more.
Often researchers don't think of university collections unless our ancestors attended that school. That is a mistake when the resources are as rich as the ones provided by Grand Valley State University. Be sure to check your local university for collections that might help in your research.