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Five Questions with Lisa Taylor, Senior Liaison Specialist, Veterans History Project

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Lisa Taylor
Lisa Taylor

The following is a guest post by Lisa Taylor of the Library of Congress.

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.

I am the Senior Liaison Specialist at the Library’s Veterans History Project (VHP). As a member of the Program Coordination and Communication team, I write and edit materials for publication; serve as a blogger; establish and maintain relationships with local and national organizations; coordinate community outreach activities and programming to encourage veterans to tell their stories and to inspire interviewers to record them; and brief Congressional staffers on ways in which they may coordinate Veterans History Project activities within their districts and states. The materials I work with are veterans’ audio- and video-recorded oral histories, original photographs, letters, military documents, transcripts, diaries and two-dimensional art.

Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?

There are many favorites, but an online collection that quickly comes to mind is that of Army veteran Connie Rose Spinks, a recipient of the Purple Heart, presented to her by none other than Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington. Her story has resonated with me since my first week at VHP in 2009. While serving in Iraq in 2004, Spinks’ face, arms and legs were severely burned during a suicide bomb attack. After viewing her before and after photos, I believed Spinks had every right to feel sorry for herself, but perseverance trumps self-pity any day. Spinks’ personal definition of survival is one to be remembered.

Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth speaking at the Library of Congress. Photo by Christy Chason
Rep. Tammy Duckworth speaking at the Library of Congress. Photo by Christy Chason

A few years ago, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s collection sparked my curiosity, particularly as it relates to veterans who are injured in combat. She is one of this country’s most recognizable wounded veterans. Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of her right arm after the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004. She is a shining example of how to turn tragedy into triumph. In addition to meeting the needs of her constituents in Illinois’ eighth district, Duckworth continues to drill as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Tell us about a memorable interaction with a K-12 teacher or student.

A media production teacher at a local high school, whose students attended a VHP workshop I led last year, recently invited me to speak at their end-of-year showcase. This was a particularly memorable experience and unlike any other event I had attended. Instead of simply showing a compilation of videos they had recorded, he and his students hosted “The Golden Ram Awards.” The event was set-up like a night at the Oscars, complete with red carpet photography and mini-statues. I was pleased to see VHP interviews among the recordings being highlighted and even more pleased to see how passionate the students were about collecting veterans’ stories. I will never forget the creative way this teacher was able to incorporate capturing oral histories into his media production curriculum.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers about the materials that you work with or the collections in general?

I’d like teachers working with students in grades 10 through 12 to know that not only is VHP an ideal research tool, but an experiential, cross-disciplinary endeavor that allows students to become primary source contributors to the Library of Congress. They can visit the Veterans History Project website to download a “how to” field kit, watch an instructional video, and search the veterans’ database.

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