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"Love Me Binders & Digital V-Mail: Military Veterans’ Personal Archives in the 21st Century", presented by Edward Benoit III
Bio: Edward Benoit, III, is Associate Director and Associate Professor in the School of Library & Information Science at Louisiana State University. He is the coordinator of the archival studies and cultural heritage resource management programs. He received an MA in History, MLIS and PhD in Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research focuses on participatory and community archives, non-traditional archival materials and archival education. He is the founder and director of the Virtual Footlocker Project, which examines the personal archiving habits of the 21st century soldier in an effort to develop new digital capture and preservation technologies to support their needs.
Abstract: In the 21st century, the advent of ubiquitous computing, web 2.0, and the explosion of humanity's digital footprint led to dramatic changes in how people capture and preserve their experiences. While there is a fair amount of research about the archival practices of the general public, there is an emerging interest in understanding the archival practices among specialized groups, including military members. The Virtual Footlocker Project (VFP) address the lack of research on military members. The VFP is a research initiative that aims to understand and support active members and veterans in capturing and preserving their experiences of service. Supported by an IMLS grant, the VFP team conducted 22 focus groups with 99 members across all military branches. Originally designed as in person focus groups, the sessions switch to a virtual format due to COVID-19. This change broadened the study population to the entire U.S., rather than just a handful of states. Preliminary findings suggest record-keeping practices among active service members and veterans were informed by two fears: 1) the fear that the military may lose their records during regular bureaucratic operations and 2) the fear of losing materials during relocation between assignments. Addressing these fears is a challenge that can be tackled through conscious archival practice. The presentation will highlight the preliminary themes and discuss proposed solutions to address these challenges.