Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Peace Corps Papers

Today’s post focuses on the work of the Peace Corps in honor of Sargent Shriver and the 50th anniversary of the agency. Sargent Shriver led the task force that outlined the mission and design of the Peace Corps, which resulted in President John F. Kennedy signing Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961 to establish the agency. Sargent Shriver was appointed director, and five months later the first group of Peace Corps volunteers headed to Ghana. By December 1961, more than 500 volunteers served in nine countries while another 200 were in training. Since its creation 50 years ago, the Peace Corps has sent over 200,000 volunteers to serve in 139 countries.

The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) houses a collection of journals and correspondence by Peace Corps volunteers. The NAA started collecting these papers in 1975 when Herman J. Viola, director of the NAA, issued a call to Peace Corps volunteers to donate their journals, letters, sketches, photographs, and recordings to the archives in an effort to document their impact and experiences. In a 1975 newspaper article about the collection, Herman J. Viola said, “I am simply astounded at some of the events of significant historical interest that volunteers have been associated with in one way or another. The Peace Corps volunteer who works in a foreign society for several years often has an entirely different perspective of an event or development than has a visiting scholar.”

The collection, “Papers of Peace Corps Volunteers, 1920-1984,” contains material from 101 former volunteers and administrators who served in over 50 countries. Volunteer assignments included education, community development, agriculture, health work, and service through such special skills as art, surveying, mechanics, and photography. For a detailed list of the collection’s content, check out the online finding aid.

-Rose Love Chou, Reference Volunteer
National Anthropological Archives

No comments:

Post a Comment