Reinvigorating Oral History for the Next 50 Years
One of the true gems in the Naval Institute’s intellectual treasure trove is its Oral History project, which is among the oldest and most respected programs in the country. The Institute’s collection is unrivaled in its body of in-depth personal narratives of crucial events as experienced by the great naval leaders of the past century. These histories excel in providing a wealth of rich detail often lost in official accounts.
Ultimately, the beauty—and the burden—of oral history are the labor and time that must be invested to do it right. In the past 44 years, the Naval Institute has completed more than 250 histories, but there remains a tremendous backlog of projects in various stages of completion that, with charitable gift income, can be completed. The Foundation will be redoubling its efforts to find supporters to underwrite the substantial costs of this worthy educational project. With proper funding, we can retain additional experienced professionals to accomplish the background research, interviewing, transcribing, footnoting, proofreading, and indexing that each project requires. Another goal is to make the entire collection available as eBooks or another user-friendly published form.
Technological improvements will now allow the raw materials—the taped interviews themselves—to be a usable resource for scholars. Imagine being able to hear Admiral Arleigh Burke discussing his life in his own words! We have a collection of more than 2,000 recordings (both five-inch reel-to-reel tapes and cassette tapes) that need to be digitized. These tapes are beginning to deteriorate and require splicing as they are converted to digital files. It’s a costly proposition since tape conversions are done real time and require special handling—but what a payoff for students, documentary filmmakers, and future historians when this herculean task can be funded and completed. You can hear snippets of several oral history interviewees, including Lieutenant General James Doolittle, in the podcast Remembering Midway at www.blogtalkradio.com/remembering-midway/2009/04/16/remembering-doolittle-raid.
For information about opportunities to underwrite individual history projects or support the digitization effort, please contact Sue Sweeney at (410) 295-1054 or at [email protected].
The Partnership Continues
Over the past decade, the Naval Institute has been fortunate to have a partner in its efforts to document and share the life experiences of key naval veterans. This summer, the Tawani Foundation signed on to continue the partnership for the next three years. Dozens of oral histories have been produced thanks to the generosity of the Tawani Foundation, and now many more are to come. These volumes are archived at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, the Naval Institute’s headquarters, the Naval Academy, the Naval History and Heritage Command, and Naval War College libraries, among other repositories.
USNI: 140 Years Strong
When the Naval Institute observes its 140th anniversary on Wednesday, 9 October 2013, there will be no party, cake, or champagne toasts—just a staff of professionals working on behalf of the membership to support the Sea Services and to advance the educational initiatives that have always been the Institute’s hallmark.
Through your generosity, however, there can be presents. By using the postage-paid gift envelop installed in this issue you will convey your vote of confidence in what the Naval Institute has accomplished over the past 140 years and help ensure its future success. Or, if it’s easier you can always make your tax-deductible contribution online at www.usni.org/foundation.
Advancing the Next Generation of Naval Leaders
An update on sponsored Naval Institute membership for Sea Service midshipmen and cadets to date for the 2013–2014 academic year:
• NROTC Units: 17 of 58 sponsored
• U.S. Naval Academy Companies: 10 of 30 sponsored
• U.S. Coast Guard Companies: 2 of 8 sponsored
• U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Companies: 0 of 5 sponsored
For more information and to sponsor midshipmen at your alma mater, please visit www.usni.org/donate-student-memberships or contact Heather Lancaster at (410) 295-1048 or at [email protected].