Stop! Do Not Toss or Shred, SAVE

 

Peace Corps history is written in the memories and hearts of the people we served as Peace Corps Volunteers. It is contained in the stories we tell each other and the books written by RPCVs. There is another critically important source for Peace Corps history. It is in the letters, the reports, the photos, and the videos from your Peace Corps service. Now as Peace Corps, the agency, reduces its historical footprint, your memorabilia must be preserved.  Peace Corps has not had an in-house library for over fifteen years. It does not accept any donations from RPCVs to archive. The National Archives and Record Administration archives federal records from federal agencies, not individuals. We are in process of asking if they would accept documents from RPCVs.  However, right now, there are three archives, which are currently accepting personal memorabilia from RPCVs.  Please consider donating your items. Here are the Archives:

American University – (Private University)

This information is copied from the website of the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University.

https://blogs.library.american.edu/pcca/?_ga=2.253647113.1870185124.1506009714-1469212090.1469636313

“The Peace Corps Community Archive curated by the American University Library collects, preserves, and makes available materials that were created and acquired by Peace Corps Volunteers. The archive is used to support student and scholarly research, create exhibits, and provide educational and public programs that document the experiences and impact of individuals who served in the Peace Corps”. American University.”

“Why You Should Donate Materials to the Community Archive

Personal memorabilia from RPCVs’ service are needed in order to create a living history of the Peace Corps and the communities where volunteers have served. In order for the archive to provide rich and detailed information about this history, it must include materials from as many different countries of service and time periods as possible. By donating to the archive you will be ensuring that your personal legacy of Peace Corps service will not be forgotten; instead, your service will continue to have a positive impact for generations to come.

photos 2Donate to the Collection

If you are interested in making a donation please contact the archive at archives@american.edu or by telephone at +1 (202) 885-3256. Our archivists will be happy to answer your questions and guide you through the process of making a donation.”

 

 

Museum of the Peace Corps Experience

From the website:

http://www.museumofthepeacecorpsexperience.org/CMPCE_site/HOME.html

“Hello to our all our friends. Our national Committee has just returned from the Peace Corps Connect Conference in Denver, Colorado. We are excited to tell you about our project of building a permanent museum of the Peace Corps Experience, to emphasize how important your participation is as an RPCV and to report progress in moving our project forward.

We are preparing to collect items in the near future.  Once part of the collection, items will be documented and digitized to create a virtual museum as an integral part of communicating the Peace Corps experience.  The museum will require data about items and will accept art, artifacts, handicraft, utensils, furniture and clothing along with your stories, documents, images and photographs, memories and ideas.”

 

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/RPCV.aspx?f=1  The library has memorabilia from RPCVs who served during the Kennedy years and RPCVs oral histories from all years. Peace Corps Staff who served during Kennedy Administration may als0 have contributed personal papers to the JFK Library. https://www.jfklibrary.org/~/media/assets/Reference/RPCV%20Collection%20Policy.pdf

If you were a Peace Corps Volunteer or a Peace Corps trainee on or before November 22, 1963, the Library is interested in your memorabilia.  This is the contact information from the JFK Library: ”

  • Acquisitions email: Acquisitions.Kennedy@nara.gov
  • Acquisitions voicemail line: 617.514.1642
  • Acquisitions mailing address: Director of Archives, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

The JFK Library also has a collection of oral histories by RPCVs from all times. This is a Third Goal activity begun by RPCV Bob Klein and continued by his partner RPCV Phyllis Noble. The oral histories are all conducted by RPCVs on a volunteer basis and then accepted for the collection by the JFK Library. Sadly, Phyllis died in May of 2017.  The oral history project is in a state of transition. It is hoped that it will become an affiliate group of the National Peace Corps Association and will be able to interview any and all interested RPCVs.  Here is an earlier description of the project: http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/rpcv-oral-history-collection-at-the-john-f-kennedy-library-update/

Each of these archives does have guidelines describing what it will accept.  If you are not able to donate your items, there are two other places to investigate.  If you trained  at a university or college in theUnited States, contact their library.  Many of them do have Peace Corps collections. Also, if you attended a college or university, contact your library, they may well accept your items.

In the age of the Internet, it will be possible, some day, to create a online comprehensive catalog of all these items, even if they are physically archived in separate locations.

3 Comments

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  • In 2008 or 2009, I followed John’s advice and donated personal materials to the John K. Kennedy Library outside of Boston. At that time, the library accepted all donated PC materials. Later, they changed their protocol and limited donations to materials between 1961 and 1963.

    Back in 2011, John was kind enough to organize the PC Writer’s gathering in the Library of Congress. Part of his activities was to work with Congressman and RPCV John Garamendi (Dem. CA) and his wife (also a RPCV) to prepare a letter to the Librarian of the Library of Congress, requesting a permanent PC collection. This is not unusual. The Library of Congress has many Special Collections including comic books. At that time, the Library of Congress accepted donations. I sent a huge box of books, some of which were as old as dirt and out of print. I sent so many, that once I arrived at the shin-dig, a technician personally thanked me. Unfortunately, the Librarian did not agree with the proposal. The Library of Congress instead prepared a selected bibliography. I suspect that the donations were thrown out.

    The Library of Congress is the correct place for such a collection. If there is a collective will to create some sort of PC collection, someone might contact the Library of Congress to consult on what would be required to create and maintain it. Once a budget is outlined, members of Congress could include it in a Bill. If Congress mandates such a creation and maintenance, the Librarian will be forced to act. Congress is his/her boss.

  • Lorenzo,

    I agree that the Library of Congress should be the place for a collection of all the RPCV books. However, the material necessary to preserve the history of Peace Corps goes beyond just the books. That is why I advocate for a Peace Corps Library, publicly funded and incorporated, and maintained by Research Librarians. The latter should be knowledgeable about Peace Corps, if not RPCVs. Here are just three examples of “fake history” currently circulating.

    1) In the book Mission: Mystique, the statement is made that only male Volunteers were sent to Puerto Rico for Outward Outbound training. That is not true. I had a vigorous email correspondence with the author who finally conceded that women also went. He even said he would “consider” revising the section if there were a second edition. The book is used extensively in undergraduate and graduate courses on the federal government. The correction has not been made, as far as I know.

    2) The same book stated that Peace Corps staff “occupied” the Peace Corps offices to protest the Viet Nam war in 1970.

    3) There is another book in which the statement is made that Volunteers received $75 per diem for each 45 days of vacation. That is not true. I contacted the Peace Corps and they declined to correct the statement because they said they did not authorize the book.

    Here are links to my proposal for a Peace Corps Library. I think it is so important that all the memorabilia RPCVs have be archived, wherever. That way, a more complete history can be written, some day.

    http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/a-proposal-for-a-peace-corps-library-part-i/
    http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/the-peace-corps-library-part-ii/

  • Joey:
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with you that all memorabilia is of historical importance. This might include photographs, art, notes, film, journals and even objects. The Smithsonian already had (in 2011) such a collection from former PC volunteers. During the 50th anniversary celebration in D.C., the Smithsonian offered a glimpse of that collection with a small exhibition. During the past few years that my youngest son served, I have become much more sensitive to the importance of social media as well. Young volunteers now rely upon it to save their thoughts and musings. Since the world has and continues to change so rapidly, this sort of collection is extremely important. I am not opposed in any way to a Peace Corps Library for such historical nuggets or even books.

    I am not a Peace Corps expert. Considering the hundreds of books that have been printed, my research is meager. Some of the four dozen PC memoirs, hundreds of news articles and even scores of long government reports I have read, made me pause. I did not agree with everything I have read but isn’t that the beauty of a Free Press? If it’s in print, save it- all of it. Let the conversation continue with even more books.

    Based upon the PC’s failure to appreciate its own history, any effort to involving the agency should be avoided. It just seems more pragmatic to utilize existing resources like the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. Both of which have professional staffs.

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