Under the auspices of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Military Oral History Project has been successful since its inception over four years ago. Through a partnership between RUSI of Vancouver Island and the University of Victoria’s History Department, the university is able to meet its objective to integrate high quality research methods and the teaching of oral history; whereas RUSI is able to promote and support essential links with the community, by conveying to the younger generation, through the voices of our veterans and their families, some part of our living history.
To date, 36 students have participated in four courses, learning how to conduct an interview, interpret the data, and record the stories and experiences for future historians. The results of the program have been most encouraging, and the students have recorded some wonderful personal histories of almost 92 veterans.
Events of 2007
The past year has seen the continued progress of the program in important ways:
1. Eight students completed the 2007 semester, with the assistance of 29 veteran interviewees. The topics ranged from peace-making operations to NORAD to Canadian families living overseas. The completed research papers have now been filed in the University’s archives.
2. A highlight was the Military Oral History Conference Between Memory and History that was hosted by the University of Victoria in February. The conference brought together senior undergraduate and graduate students, academics, public historians, and veterans working in a variety of fields in military history. Some 53 academics, students and veterans presented papers, including three UVIC undergraduates, and four RUSI veterans, making this a success in promoting various aspects of military history, including both popular and official military history, operational history, military families and the home front, First Nations, records management and archival preservation. RUSI contributed $2000 in order to help subsidize the travel of 5 Canadian students who presented papers.
Plans for 2008
For the coming year, RUSI will continue to support the Military Oral History Project as one of the key components of the Institute’s approved “Outreach Program.” A principal challenge for the program will be to improve the database of veterans who are willing to be interviewed.
In this respect, the administrative structure that was established within RUSI included a coordinator from each of the Services to help identify those veterans within their respective Service who might have the required background for the students’ research, and who would be willing to volunteer their time and share their experiences during a formal interview process. Last year we were able to have a coordinator in place for each of the Services, but this network needs to be expanded, bringing in other relevant personnel, such as non-commissioned officers, the RCMP, etc. Topics for examination by the students are expected to focus increasingly on more recent operations, and less on WW II experiences.