Oral histories from Georgian WWII veterans now freely available online

“This unique project shone a light on the special men and women who sacrificed themselves for all Americans and continues to be a valuable historical resource for researchers, family, and friends of the veterans.”

Aug. 15, 2019

CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA — Video recorded recollections from 50 World War II veterans originally from the Bainbridge, GA, area are now available online through YouTube and the Digital Library of Georgia. The interviews, which were originally captured on VHS and VHS-C tapes, were digitized as part of a summer student practicum program sponsored by Georgia HomePLACE, a unit of the Georgia Public Library Service, the Southwest Georgia Regional Library System, and the Clayton State University Master of Archival Studies program. 

The interviews preserve the experiences and history of WWII veterans and provide insight into the cultural and societal values in America between 1939-1945. The majority of veterans interviewed for the project have since passed away, making preservation all the more crucial.

“This unique project shone a light on the special men and women who sacrificed themselves for all Americans and continues to be a valuable historical resource for researchers, family, and friends of the veterans,” says Library Director Susan Whittle. “Responding to a request from an older community resident, SWGRL librarians & historians interviewed and videotaped many of the area’s “Greatest Generation” to share their war experiences and preserve them for posterity in our library and archives.” 

The World War II Veterans Project was an oral history initiative conducted by the Southwest Georgia Regional Library System from 1998-2008 with funding from The Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust. In 2002, the library received a National Award for Library Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, partly in recognition of the project’s success.

In order to preserve and improve access to these oral histories, the analog interviews were described, digitized, and uploaded to YouTube. They are additionally searchable within the Digital Library of Georgia. On average, each recording lasts 30 to 40 minutes and chronicles the interviewee’s age when drafted or enlisted, the branch of service, and training. Interviewees recount the nature of their assignments and duties, and often the weapons or artillery used, the transport ships, trucks, trains, and planes; the countries in which they were stationed; and where applicable, the major battles in which they participated.  

Joshua Kitchens, Director of the Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State, says, “Outside-of-the-classroom experiences, such as working with Georgia HomePLACE, help our students apply the knowledge and skills they’ve accumulated in their course work. It is invaluable that our students have these types of opportunities to gain firsthand experience. Partnerships like these also help our students give back to the larger community of institutions preserving Georgia’s memory.”

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Georgia HomePLACE encourages public libraries and related institutions across the state to participate in the Digital Library of Georgia. HomePLACE offers a highly collaborative model for digitizing primary source collections related to local history and genealogy. HomePLACE is a project of the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. HomePLACE is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service.

The Clayton State University’s Master of Archival Studies (MAS) program prepares professionals for careers in government, businesses, and collecting archives. The program emphasizes digital archives and electronic records. Because the program concentrates on archives and records, it offers a more in-depth study than students would receive in a library, information science, or public history program. Its innovative blend of traditional archival knowledge with information technology responds to the need for professionals who understand contemporary records and record-keeping systems. 

The Southwest Georgia Regional Library System serves the residents of Decatur, Miller, and Seminole Counties. The library system houses books, audiovisual materials, computers, genealogical resources, and more to serve the needs of the residents of the area. The Southwest Georgia Library for Accessible Services provides materials for blind and physically handicapped persons and serves a 22 county region in Southwest Georgia. We strive to provide the collections, reference services, and events that best serve the members of our community.

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Oral histories from Chinese-Americans living in Augusta now available

The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) is pleased to announce the availability of the Augusta Chinese-American Oral History Project at https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gaec_caoh. The collection, which belongs to the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System (ARCPLS), contains 26 oral history interviews of of individuals who either immigrated to Augusta, Georgia from China, and/or grew up in Augusta during the early to mid-twentieth century. It is available thanks in part to the DLG’s 2018 Competitive Digitization grant program, a funding opportunity intended to broaden DLG partner participation for statewide historic digitization projects.

The interviews were gathered in 2011 and 2012 by members of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Augusta (CCBA), with ARCPLS serving as a partner institution. The original intent of the project was to create an archive of stories and personal family histories of a select group of individuals, mostly elders within the Augusta Chinese-American community to preserve for future generations, particularly for the younger members of the community. By making the oral histories easily accessible online, younger generations are more likely to seek out information regarding their heritage.

ARCPLS Genealogy and Local History Librarian Tina Monaco notes: “Because of the variety of topics discussed by those interviewed, the oral histories appeal to a broad number of researchers, social historians, those tracing their family histories, and students. Anyone interested in studying immigration, minority cultures, economic history, race relations, or the establishment of Chinese-American organizations in the South will find the interviews informative.”

Monaco also states: “Several of the interviewees discuss family-owned businesses that opened in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Augusta during the Jim Crow era. Whites in Augusta refused to provide services to African-Americans, thereby opening a window of opportunity, which Augusta’s Chinese-Americans took advantage of by opening successful groceries, restaurants, and laundry establishments, a few of which were damaged or destroyed during the Augusta Race Riots of 1970. This dynamic would be a rich area of study for both social scientists and historians concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors among minority and discriminated populations in the Jim Crow South. Finally, these stories offer a fresh voice to the complex narrative of southern history, one that speaks to the diversity and multiculturalism of the South.”

Travis Tom, curator of the Augusta Chinese-American Oral History project and board member of the CCBA notes: “We are hoping that the oral histories reach a wider audience–across the nation and perhaps the world–and educates those interested in how Chinese Americans settled in Augusta, Georgia (the Southeast) and started their lives. It is important that we recorded these stories to show how people in our community lived during our time (early 1900s-2011). We encourage other groups to do the same.”

About Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System

The Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System (ARCPLS) is a public library system serving more than 250,000 county residents. As a member of Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES), a program of the Georgia Public Library Service covering 53 library systems in 143 Georgia counties, ARCPLS supports any resident in the PINES network and provides access to over 10 million books. ARCPLS has a collection size of over 316,000 with a circulation of more than 478,000 annually. ARCPLS facilitates programs and classes to educate and entertain all ages at no cost. In addition to being a vital meeting place where the community can gather, explore new worlds, and share ideas and values, ARCPLS is a community hub and a critical anchor for our residents and neighbors. With a committed and diverse staff, ARCPLS continues to bring innovative and adaptive information and technology to its patrons. Visit ARCPLS at https://arcpls.org/

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia https://dlg.usg.edu is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.

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