Remembering Veterans: The Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program
By Ellen Brooks, Oral Historian, Wisconsin Veterans Museum
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum's (WVM) mission to affirm, commemorate, and acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices of Wisconsin veterans in America's military past. The WVM Oral History Program, which I have had the privilege of coordinating for over three years, honors those who served by recording and preserving their stories and experiences. Since 1994 our staff members and volunteers have conducted and collected over 2,100 interviews with veterans from around the state. Our collection represents all branches and all conflicts and eras since World War I to the present day.
The Oral History Program focuses not only on creating a record of our veteran-narrators’ stories, but also on the preservation and accessibility of these narratives for future generations. The interviews are housed in WVM’s Research Center, where they are easily available to teachers, students, researchers, the media, and veterans groups. In addition, great strides are being made to make the interviews, both the recordings and associated transcripts, more discoverable and accessible through WVM’s website. We also strive to promote these primary sources by using them for public programming, exhibits, and educational activities.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum recently opened a new temporary exhibit, WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front. Throughout the next two years we will be offering programming and events that feature Wisconsin’s contribution to the Great War – in which 122,000 people from Wisconsin served. As part of these efforts, we have been working on ways to showcase our small but exciting collection of World War I oral history interviews:
- Eleven of our World War I interviews are accessible online via our website's Featured Interviews page.
Excerpts from several of the interviews are available to listen to in the new exhibit through an audio device that visitors can pick up before going into the gallery.
- We have partnered with the produce of Wisconsin Public Radio's Wisconsin Life to feature stories and audio from our collections on the show. We will be airing theses stories through next November.
We are always looking for new ways to use and feature all of our interviews and to inspire others to do so as well. These narratives put a human, individual face on war and military service, so that visitors and researchers get an opportunity to meet these veterans and perhaps put themselves in their shoes.
Learn more about the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program, and search the Collection.