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Monday, July 18, 2011

Connecting the Folklife Festival, the Peace Corps, and the Freer-Sackler Archives: Chaplain A.C. Oliver Jr.

As a summer intern at the Freer-Sackler Archives, I have been given the opportunity to rummage around in their holdings and blog about the collections and items that most grab my attention. This is my first contribution.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held annually on the National Mall, ended July 11th after running nearly two weeks. 

This year the festival featured the nation of Colombia, rhythm and blues music, and, in honor of its 50th anniversary, the Peace Corps. Since 1961, when it was established by an Executive Order by President Kennedy, the Peace Corps has been sending volunteers around the world to countries and people in need. The Folklife Festival has selected the nations of the Ukraine, Ghana, Mali, Jamaica, Morocco, and the Philippines to be representative of the 139 countries that have been visited by Peace Corps volunteers.

The Peace Corps' program in the Philippines is its second oldest, beginning the same year that the program was founded, and serving a primarily educational purpose (1).

The invasion and subsequent governance of the Philippines by the Japanese took place long before the Peace Corps was created. The events of this period (which lasted from 1942 to 1945), such as the Bataan death march, resulted in massive death and destruction within the nation (2). This is very likely related to the speed with which the Filipino government requested volunteers in 1961.

Colonel Arthur C. Oliver was a chaplain in the United States Army, serving in both world wars. While serving in the Philippines in 1942, Oliver was taken prisoner by Japanese forces, and was even forced to participate in the Bataan death march, which he managed to survive. Prior to his service in second world war, Oliver spent two years (1930-1932) in China, where he took many photographs, now housed in the archives of the Freer-Sackler Galleries. To see the complete description of Oliver's collection, along with digitized copies of selected images, please click here.

For more information on the Folklife Festival, please follow the link here.  

Megan Quint
Intern, Freer-Sackler Archives

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