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Volunteers needed for veterans' oral history project

NDSU researchers are asking for volunteers to help with an important oral history project about the impact of war at home.

The effort, called “Project Unpack: Telling Stories, Creating Community: Understanding the Legacies of War at Home,” is funded through a $201,104 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is aimed at understanding the effects of war on veterans and the people closest to them.

Collecting oral histories is a vital part of Project Unpack, and the research team is looking for help from the public to identify both veterans and family members who want to share their experiences. In addition, volunteers are needed to conduct interviews and record the oral histories.

“We hope the oral history program, along with the author and arts programs, allow the community to better understand what war veterans face upon their return home and the challenges that families face upon their veteran’s return,” said Christina Weber, associate professor of sociology, who is the principal investigator for the grant. “Unpacking our internal baggage gives us time to reflect and consider the circumstances of our lives more fully. It gives us the opportunity to listen more thoughtfully and to develop compassion for those around us.”

If you know a person to be interviewed or you want to volunteer for the project, email the researchers at info@unpackstories.org or visit the project’s website.

“Why collect oral histories? Because first-person narratives help us understand the varied human experiences and interpretations of the past,” said Angela Smith, assistant professor of public history. “Recorded and then archived oral histories pass on the events, thoughts and feelings of individuals to future generations of citizens and scholars. It also provides the interviewee with a voice in history.”

Oral history interview sessions are scheduled for July 14-30 by appointment at the downtown Fargo Public Library, Carlson Library
 and Red Raven Expresso Parlor Community Room.

Volunteers will receive training, which is scheduled for Saturday, July 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Minard 410. “The four-hour training session will focus on how to conduct an oral history. We are looking for volunteers to interview program participants,” Smith explained, noting the volunteers will schedule their involvement over the two-week period.

The collected oral histories will be preserved for public and scholarly use in the Institute for Regional Studies at the NDSU Archives.

Project Unpack was one of only 21 projects funded through the National Endowment of the Humanities’ new Humanities in the Public Square grant program. Other segments of the project include:

• A program where the community is invited to read and discuss a book related to the legacies of war.

• Writing and ceramics workshops for veterans and their families. The workshops will help participants explore different ways to tell their stories.

• A series of public forums and programs for veterans and families to share their stories and creative work with the community.

In addition to Weber and Smith, other NDSU faculty members involved in the project include Alison Graham-Bertolini, assistant professor of English and women and gender studies, and Michael Strand, professor and head of visual arts.

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