Peace Corps Volunteer Archives
The Peace Corps offers an experience like no other. Since its founding in 1961, over 210,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have provided service in 139 different countries, meeting new challenges head-on with innovation, determination and understanding. Volunteers and staff involved in a wide range of activities have seen sights and created memories that are as priceless to the Peace Corps community as a whole as they are to the individuals who created them.
While the Peace Corps was officially founded in 1961, it traces its roots to a speech given by John F. Kennedy in October 1960 on the campus of the University of Michigan, when he challenged a group of students to serve their country abroad in the name of peace. Under the Kennedy presidency, the Peace Corps was founded and since then over two hundred thousand individuals have traveled to developing countries to meet JFK’s challenge—to serve their own country by living and working voluntarily in another.
In an effort to preserve the uniquely fascinating history and tradition of the Peace Corps, various universities and libraries have established archives of items donated to them by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Most archives collect letters, reports, photos, publications and personal correspondence and one, the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience, accepts three-dimensional artifacts.
Information regarding several Peace Corps archives is detailed below along with links to discover how Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and friends of the Peace Corps community alike can donate items, photos, and memories to aid in protecting the history and promoting the work of the Peace Corps, As the National Peace Corps Association is informed of additional related archives, their descriptions and contact information will be added to this page.
JFK PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY – THE PEACE CORPS COLLECTION
The John F. Kennedy Library houses “The Peace Corps Collection” which preserves over 30,000 items that record the history of Peace Corps. The Peace Corps Collection generally accepts items from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and staff who served specifically during the Kennedy administration, 1961-1963.
For more information regarding The Peace Corps Collection at the JFK Presidential Library, visit their webpage here.
The official policy of the collection, can be found here.
Potential donors can reach the JFK Library archivists at Acquisitions.Kennedy@nara.gov or call 617-514-1642.
Oral History Interviews
Robert Klein, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served with Ghana I from 1961-1963, initiated a project in 1999 to collect oral histories of Volunteers who served at any time and in any of the countries. The Peace Corps oral history archive is an ongoing part of The Peace Corps Collection in the JFK Presidential Library.
For more information about the RPCV Oral History Project, or to become involved, contact OralHistoryProject@peacecorpsconnect.org.
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY – PEACE CORPS COMMUNITY ARCHIVE
American University in Washington, DC, houses a significant amount of Peace Corps history. Initiated by Friends of Colombia, a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, with support from the university librarian at the time, Patricia A. Wand, this collection has grown from a small exhibit of Colombia-based items into an extensive collection that includes the administrative files of Friends of Colombia, Friends of Nigeria and the National Peace Corps Association as well as many documents and photos from individual Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
In 2013, American University announced the founding of the Peace Corps Community Archive, an expanded collection of items from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served at any time and place. The purpose of the Archive is to collect, exhibit, and provide educational and public programs that document the experiences and impact of individuals who served in the Peace Corps and of individuals and institutions in host countries. The Peace Corps Community Archive preserves primary research material for scholars and students and, through its exhibits and website, serves to increase awareness of the legacy of Peace Corps.
To learn more about the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University, visit the website, here.
If you are interested in donating to the Peace Corps Community Archive, visit the AU Library donate page.
PEACE CORPS DIGITAL LIBRARY
The Peace Corps Digital Library, developed by the U.S. Peace Corps agency, features Volunteer, staff, and agency photos and stories, as well as brochures, posters, graphics, and documents pertaining to Peace Corps service. The searchable online database provides the opportunity to browse instantly and effortlessly through a large collection of official Peace Corps materials contributed by the U.S. Peace Corps and the Peace Corps community.
To learn more or browse the fascinating digitized items, visit the Peace Corps Digital Library website, here.
MUSEUM OF THE PEACE CORPS EXPERIENCE
The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience is devoted to sharing the Peace Corp’s unique and captivating story with the broader American public. While this museum is not a physical reality at this time, support from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers is contributing to bringing this museum to life. Founded in Portland, Oregon, contributions from interested parties across the globe are enthusiastically accepted.
To learn more about the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience, visit their website, here.
(In addition, more information regarding the long term vision of this archival project can be viewed here.)
If you are interested in contributing artifacts for the collection or to help fund the development of the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience, visit their contribution page.
- Northeast Document Conservation Center: Caring for Private and Family Collections
- National Archives: Caring for Your Family Archives
- Library of Congress: Preserving Your Family Treasures
Create Your Own Family Archives
Donating to an Archival Repository
- Society of American Archivists: Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository
Blogs on the NPCA website pertaining to archives
- Peace Corps Community Archive Established at American University
- Remembering Bob Klein (1929-2012)
- Polish Archive Looking for Peace Corps Artifacts, Memories
- Preserving your Peace Corps Memories