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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 4
December, 1942
COLLECTION AND PRESERVATION OF THE MATERIALS OF WAR HISTORY1

By Ruth A. Gallaher

Page 407

The purpose of this article is to direct the attention of Public Libraries, County Historical Societies, and Local Historians to an important patriotic service which they alone are capable of rendering at this time—the patriotic service of collecting and preserving the materials of the history of the present war so far as it touches the local community.

By the local community is meant the county, the city, or the town. By local historical societies is meant organizations that are concerned primarily with the history of a local community. By local historians is meant the men and women who are interested in the collection, preservation, or writing of the history of local communities. For the objects set forth in this bulletin local branches of patriotic societies may be classed with local historical societies, and the members of such patriotic organizations may be included among the local historians—provided such societies and their members are interested in local history.

Besides being the most stupendous struggle in the history of the world, the World War touches every local community, every local institution, and every individual. The materials which relate to this war are correspondingly important and widespread. There is a real danger, however, that much of this valuable historical material will be lost to future generations unless a definite, systematic, and concerted effort is made at collection and preservation. Indeed, the very abundance of pamphlets, leaflets, pledge cards, reports, announcements, posters, orders, proclamations, letters, and sermons makes these valuable historical source materials seem commonplace and unimportant; but the people who will look back to this period and the historians who will write about the events of these days will find nothing commonplace or unimportant in that which reveals the spirit, the work, or the purposes of the men and women who have sacrificed in this great struggle. The patriotic duty of the hour is, therefore, the collection and preservation of the historical materials relating to this war.

It is true that certain official records are being preserved in which will appear the names of the men and women in the service of the United States and State governments—particularly of the men in the army and navy. But these official records will contain no information of many activities that were carried on by voluntary organizations and of events that were daily occurring in local communities. An adequate history of the State's part in the war can never be written wholly from official records: public archives



Page 408

must be supplemented by data drawn from local communities. Furthermore, the State governments do not to any considerable extent participate in the administration of military and naval affairs. Consequently the official records of the army and navy will not be available within the State until printed and distributed by the government at Washington. Since this work can not very well be undertaken for some years, the collection of reliable data concerning the State's part in the war becomes an imperative duty if the people of our State and local communities are to be supplied with the desired historical information.

In Iowa the organized agencies which are able to carry on this work of collection and preservation are the public libraries and the county historical societies—especially the public libraries. They have become active educational forces in the local communities and enjoy the support and confidence of the people of all ages, classes, and creeds. The public library is now recognized as an important factor in the formation of public opinion; and in this crisis it is the patriotic duty of every librarian to make sure that all the information possible is secured for the future use of the patrons of this democratic institution. Moreover, the local library has unusual opportunities for securing such information: it is only necessary to make the effort before the materials have become scarce.

The collections of the materials of war history in the various local libraries will not only contain more information as a whole than any one large institution could hope to secure, but the materials thus located will be accessible to the largest possible number of people. It is evident that such a distribution of available source materials will be of the utmost importance if there is to be in the future a widespread understanding of the significance of the war.

For this patriotic service the public library should invite the cooperation of local historical societies, local historians, and local branches or chapters of patriotic societies. The work of collection might be organized and carried on under the personal direction of the librarian. Or a committee, with the librarian as chairman, might be appointed by the library board of trustees to coordinate the efforts of the community in the gathering of materials.

The cost of making such collections will be almost negligible. Officials in charge of the distribution of war publicity matter will usually cooperate cordially with the library if their attention is enlisted. Local boards, committees, societies, and individuals will be found ready to contribute to the collections. Publicity regarding the efforts to preserve the history of the war may be secured through the local papers and by personal interviews. Occasional exhibits of materials already collected may be arranged to arouse the interest of the community.

In the selection of materials it will be well to assume that everything which is in any way related to the war or to community life

Page 409

during the war will be of interest. The following list is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive:

1. LOCAL NEWSPAPERS
Complete files of local newspapers should be preserved; in addition, clippings of special interest in the local community may be collected and pasted in a scrap book—preferably one with loose leaves to permit of rearrangement. These clippings should be marked with the name and date of the paper from which they were secured.

2. OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS
These include the blanks, questionnaires, instructions, orders, laws, and proclamations issued by Federal, State, or local authorities.

3. DATA ON SEMI-OFFICIAL ORGANIZATIONS
In this group may be placed the reports, records, correspondence, and appeals of organizations such as the Red Cross, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Knights of Columbus and the American Library Association. The information relating to the local societies, organizations, and committees will be of special interest.

4. POSTERS
These are of many kinds and for many purposes. Among those already issued are the pictorial appeals for the war bonds, the Red Cross, food and fuel conservation, enlistments in the army and navy, war-gardens, relief work, and books for camp libraries. In addition to the usual posters intended for windows and bill boards, there are others which take the form of "stickers," placards in street cars, and hand bills. Service flags should be obtained if possible and can be most easily kept with the collection of posters.

5. INFORMATION AND PUBLICITY MATERIAL
This includes the books, maps, and pamphlets giving information on the war—distributed by the government or by the efforts of individuals and organizations—and speeches and sermons delivered in the community concerning war problems.

6. MILITARY STATISTICS
Here belong lists of local men in the army and navy, and the company, regiment, and rank of each; lists of registered men in the county; members of the officers' training camps from the county; lists of Red Cross nurses; lists of recruits; the names of the men sent from the county at each call under the draft; and the honor rolls of men in service kept by organizations such as churches, schools and societies.

7. PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIAL
In this class belong individual and group pictures of soldiers and sailors from the county; pictures of war committees, pa-

Page 410

rades, and scenes of community interest. War pictures collected by individuals in service may be preserved. Moving picture films showing scenes in which men from the county participate should be included wherever it is possible to secure them.

8. ECONOMIC AND INDUSTRIAL MATERIAL
Under this head come price lists, advertisements, data concerning employment, factories, war-gardens, the work of railroads and other corporations in war service, and any information dealing with the economic and industrial situation in the community during war times.

9. EDUCATIONAL ADAPTATIONS
Here may be included information concerning changes in the schools due to the war, such as the introduction of military training courses; the war work of the schools and libraries; efforts to Americanize foreigners; vocational rehabilitation, public health, and the work of conservation.

10. MANUSCRIPTS
Besides the above classified materials there is much miscellaneous matter, such as letters and diaries of local men and women in war service, typewritten copies of records, lists, speeches, addresses, sermons, and other papers not otherwise available.

11. MUSEUM MATERIALS
In addition to the printed matter, manuscripts, and pictorial records, a collection may be made of souvenirs, badges, flags, medals, pins, trophies, and military equipment. This should include objects of American origin as well as mementoes from the allies or the enemy.

Much of the war material at hand to-day is of such an ephemeral character that its permanent preservation is somewhat difficult. Books, of course, present no unusual problem. Many of the pamphlets, bulletins, and blanks may also be bound in sets and treated as books. Gaylord binders, scrap books, and pamphlet boxes may be utilized in caring for much of the material which can not be bound. Where facilities are not available for taking care of items collected, they may be given with due credit to the State Historical Society, and in other cases duplicate material should be given it.

It is suggested that such persons and organizations as are listed below be urged to cooperate in the collection of the materials of war history:

  1. Members of the County Council of Defense
  2. Members of the Draft Boards
  3. County and Municipal Officers—especially the Sheriff and the Mayor
  4. Red Cross Chapters

Page 411

  5. The U. S. O., etc.
  6. Post Masters
  7. Commercial Clubs
  8. Station Agents
  9. Banks
10. Pastors of Churches
11. Newspaper Editors
12. Boy Scouts
13. Teachers and Pupils in the Schools
14. Patriotic, Religious, and Fraternal Organizations1



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