The conference is hosted by the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience. Housed in the Department of History at Florida State University, the Institute is one part of a strong War and Society program found in the department. The Institute on World War II was founded in 1997 by the late Dr. William Oldson, who sought to preserve the photographs, letters, and artifacts of service members and their families, often saving these items from being thrown away completely. Our first major collections came from Paul Dougherty, a photographer with the 9th Air Force and 3rd Army, and George R. Langford, who served in the 20th Armored Division under General Patton in France.
Since 1997, our work has continued to enable thousands of veterans to preserve their legacies of service, and our collections of primary resources now total almost 7,000, largely in the form of personal papers. These collections are contained in nearly 800 cubic feet of paper documents, 75 cubic feet of photographs, 382 linear feet of books, more than 600 maps, paintings, and magazines, and 300 cubic feet of artifacts. These collections came to Tallahassee from 49 states and Washington, DC, as well as dozens of international collections from around the world. One of the Institute’s largest collections, donated by Tom Brokaw, contains the thousands of letters, photographs, manuscripts, and books he collected while writing his Greatest Generation books.
One of the aisles in the Institute’s archives
Each year, the Institute sponsors events that seek to bring new perspectives and cutting edge scholarship to the Florida State community. Our lecture program brings leading scholars to campus for speaking engagements semi-annually since 2012, including Conrad Crane, Sheldon Garon, John Kinder, Barak Kushner, John Kinder, Judy Litoff, and others. Additionally, we have sponsored two international academic conferences in Tallahassee, one focusing on the Global History of Religion in the Second World War and the other examining Comparative Homefronts. Other initiatives have led to a exhibit, “Witness to War” at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida (2013) that included selections from the Institute’s extensive photographic collections. The exhibit “The Human Experience,” at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts (2015) offered a comprehensive overview of the Institute’s extensive holdings of documents and artifacts.
The Institute has strived to make to not only serve the needs of scholars, but also make our facilities a living history laboratory for students at Florida State University. Through digital humanities projects like crowdsourcing letter and diary transcriptions, digitization of photographic collections, and hands-on learning for students in Museum Studies, the Institute on World War II serves as a distinctive resource for students learning how to “do” history in the twenty-first century.
We welcome researchers seeking to investigate any aspect of World War II. The Institute’s collections strengths include the American home front, the role of women, the European, Pacific, and China-Burma-India Theaters of Operations, the American Merchant Marine, and the American occupation of Germany and Japan. Our collections have been used in a number of publications and media projects, including the History Channel documentary series, The Color of War.
Currently, we are in the process of adding our internal database and finding aids to the FSU Archon system, which can be found at: http://fsuarchon.fcla.edu/. While Archon still represents a small portion of our holdings, you can find more collections by submitting a formal research inquiry to our staff at [email protected].
If you are interested in planning a research trip to FSU and the Institute on World War II, note also that we now offer a competitive travel grant for scholars and advanced graduate students. As a result of a gift from the late Thomas S. Cundy, Sr., the Institute’s Cundy Travel Grant is in its second year and helps fund travel to Tallahassee for research in the Institute’s Collections.
For more information, visit the Institute’s website at: http://ww2.fsu.edu or contact, Professor G. Kurt Piehler, Institute Director, at [email protected]