About The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum

The National World War II Museum’s oral history collection was begun by the late Dr. Stephen Ambrose. While teaching history at the University of New Orleans, Dr. Ambrose began collecting the oral histories of veterans to use in his books and articles. Dr. Ambrose performed many oral history interviews himself, and he also expanded his collecting by taking out newspaper advertisements and requesting veterans to record their oral histories on cassette tapes or written transcripts and then mail them to him. This was the genesis of the collection.

Dr. Ambrose and his colleague at the University of New Orleans, Dr. Gordon "Nick" Mueller, launched the effort to establish a museum honoring the American veterans of D-Day. The D-Day Museum was opened in 2000. In 2003, Congress officially designated the museum as the National World War II Museum, and charged the institution with the mission of telling the entire story of the American people in the war.

With the recognition that the Greatest Generation was passing from the scene, the Museum intensified its efforts to build a collection of videotaped oral histories. The subsequent collecting has mainly focused on covering the story of World War II through the voices of citizen soldiers in all branches, theatres, and major war experiences.

During this time the Museum also began collecting artifact and archival collections such as uniforms, weapons, souvenirs of war, military and personal correspondence, and in the largest numbers – photographs. These photographs range from those produced as official Navy or Army photographs to those taken with small, Brownie cameras.

The oral history and artifact collections were originally envisioned as a preservation effort and as a support for the Museum’s exhibits and galleries. The Museum is currently seeking to re-envision its educational mission and reach through digitizing these collections and making them more accessible online.

To learn more about the Institute for Museum and Library Services grant that enabled this project CLICK HERE