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An Interview with Robert Patrick, Director of the Veterans History Project

Once again, for Veterans Day, we decided to highlight the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The VHP was established following the passage of the Veterans’ Oral History Project Act in October 2000, with the primary purpose of collecting “video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of American war veterans.” On the VHP website you can search and browse the database of items related to veterans from different military services and various conflicts. Of the 98,000 items in the VHP collection, over 15,500 have been digitized and made available online so you can listen to the veterans’ oral histories and view letters, photographs, and diaries collected from them and their families. You can also find information about how to participate in the project and the type and format of information that can be added to the VHP collection.

The following is an interview with Robert (Bob) Patrick, who was appointed as the Director of the VHP in 2006.

Describe your background.

Photo by Shealah Craighead / Library of Congress.

Photo by Shealah Craighead / Library of Congress.

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and attended school at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). I was very fortunate through my Army career to have lived in many places, including Germany and Korea as well as Indiana, Maine, Kansas, Kentucky, and Maryland. I shared this with my wife, Valerie and our two children, Molly and Eliot, who have graced us with four grandchildren. 

What is your academic/professional history?

At VMI, I studied history, which is a subject I have always enjoyed. My career in the U.S. Army called on me to be a student of military history. It was an area of study in my branch schools as well as at the Command & General Staff College and U.S. Army War College. I am very fortunate to be able to put this into practice in my position with the Veterans History Project.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I always say that being the Director of the Veterans History Project is the ideal job for me. I am a veteran and come from a family of veterans; I am a student of history and was formerly a director with the National World War II Memorial. Beyond that, I love that I am able to honor veterans, engage their families and friends, and provide a valuable archival resource to researchers and educators.

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

At first, it was to have the opportunity to be associated with the Veterans History Project. Then I learned what a remarkable institution this is, and now I feel blessed to be a part of it. I think it is a great thing to say –“I work at the Library of Congress.”

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Library of Congress?

Last year I took the Library of Congress docent training course and learned some terrific facts about the Library. The thing that amazes me most is the collections of personal papers from presidents, poets, generals, artists, musicians, comedians, statesmen, scientists, and now veterans.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I cannot live without my music. I can’t sing but can’t begin the day without listening to my iPod on the Metro as I come to work. It makes my day.

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