History

James Smither - D-1-230 MAK, (616) 331-3422, smitherj@gvsu.edu

Professor of History
Director of the GVSU Veterans History Project, http://www.gvsu.edu/vethistory/

Fields: Renaissance, Reformation and Early Modern Europe, France, Military History

Degrees: BA, University of Chicago, 1982
                MA, Brown University, 1983
                Ph.D., Brown University, 1989

For more information, please see Prof. Smither's Curriculum Vitae.

GVSU Veterans History Project:

Dr. Smither serves as the director of the GVSU Veterans History Project. In partnership with the Library of Congress, the GVSU project records oral history interviews with veterans of and civilian witnesses to the wars and conflicts that Americans have participated in over the last century with the purpose of creating as complete a record as possible of the American experience in wartime. The interviews that we conduct are archived in the Special Collections of GVSU’s Library, which are housed in Seidman House (add link?) on the Allendale Campus. Biographical information on each interviewee also goes to the Library of Congress for its Veterans History Project database.

Participants in the project include GVSU students, faculty and staff, partner organizations in the area, including schools, museums, libraries and historical societies, and volunteers from the community. Some of the types of work that they do are:

  • Recording individual oral history interviews on video for archiving
  • Recording broadcast-quality interviews for airing on public access and/or PBS television stations
  • Creating documentaries on specific topics for PBS broadcast
  • Creating transcripts or detailed notes on each interview for researchers to access over the internet
  • Giving presentations in the community relating to the general project or one of the documentaries
  • Training secondary school teachers and students in oral history
  • Working with local museums, libraries and historical societies to conduct regularly scheduled series of interviews and create shared interview archives
  • Processing photographs, letters, diaries and other written or printed materials relating to the project for archiving

Veterans and civilian witnesses with stories to tell regarding World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, or military experiences outside of these specific conflicts, are invited to contact Dr. Smither to set up an interview. People who have friends or relatives with stories to tell, or who want to find out more about the interview process, are also invited to contact Dr. Smither.

GVSU students can participate in the project as interns earning history course credit (HST 490) that can be applied to the history major or used as elective credit. Interns have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of the activities listed above. The project also uses student research assistants who are paid by the hour, mostly to create notes to accompany the archived interviews. Additional internship and independent study opportunities relating to the project can be arranged through the School of Communications (COM students should consult with Prof. Frank Boring in the SOC).

While the project gets some financial and in-kind support from the university, we rely heavily on community volunteers and donations. Anyone interested in supporting the project, whether as a volunteer or through a donation, should contact Dr. Smither.

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Page last modified December 20, 2011