BGSU digitizes WWII oral history project

A World War II oral history project is now available to the world.
The original recordings were digitized and posted online with the help of a $6,700 grant awarded by the
Ohio History Fund to the Center for Archival Collections at Bowling Green State University.
“I’m really, really pleased with this project. I’m really excited to give better access to these
important stories of life experiences during WWII. We’re at a point where we’re losing stories every
single day at an incredible rate and it won’t be long before the individuals who can tell these
incredible stories will all be gone,” said Michelle Sweetser, head librarian and university archivist,
Center for Archival Collections.
“These oral histories are an opportunity to hear the spoken words and just somebody to talk and tell
their story to the listener.”
The project accomplishes two goals: improved accessibility to the interviews and preservation. The
digitized interviews were done for a WWII history class taught by BGSU faculty members Walter Grunden
and Kathren Brown from 2000-04. There were more than 100 oral histories recorded, primarily on magnetic
VHS cassettes, audio cassette, micro-cassette and eight-millimeter tape.
Most of the interviews were done with relatives of the students taking the course, making the project
primarily representative of Northwest Ohio. Men and women, both civilians and military personnel,
representing a broad swath of personal experiences related to the war, were interviewed. The collection
also includes many photographs, both contemporary and from wartime.
“Before we received this funding, people had to come here, to the library, to use the equipment in our
reading room to interact with these stories. Now they can sit anywhere in the world and read them, if
they so desire, or listen to them. Because the funding allowed us to digitize them as well as to
transcribe them, or capture them, as appropriate,” Sweetser said. “They were on unstable media. When you
think about cassettes in various forms,VHS or audio, every time you play them it degrades the media
somewhat, and the availability of playback machines is becoming more difficult to find.”
The CAC listed the following interview features:
• Service in all branches of the armed forces
• Combat experience in the European and Pacific theaters of the war
• Noncombatant life on the U.S home front and abroad
• A variety of social and economic backgrounds
The audio recordings have transcripts and the video recordings have been closed-captioned. Use of the
service is free to anyone. It is not necessary to be associated with BGSU or open an account.
“Experiencing War: A Project to Preserve and Make Accessible Oral Histories of World War II” can be found
on the internet at: https://digitalgallery.bgsu.edu/exhibits/show/wwii_oral_histories