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Library Launches Peace Corps Community Archive

New Collection: Peace Corps Community Archive (PCCA)

The University Library is pleased to announce the newly established Peace Corps Community Archive (PCCA), an exciting joint initiative with the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of International Service. The PCCA will collect and exhibit materials documenting the experiences and impact of individuals who have served in the Peace Corps. The archive will serve as a research collection for use by students and scholars studying peace diplomacy. The archive also aims to increase awareness of the history of the Peace Corps.

Celebration

The School of International Service, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the AU Alumni Association celebrated the launch of the University Library's Peace Corps Community Archive with the event, "Waging Peace Through a Lifetime of Service" on March 21. As part of the event, University Librarian Nancy Davenport introduced the archive and acknowledged the work of her predecessors, previous University Librarian Bill Mayer and University Librarian Emerita Pat Wand, for their support in launching the archive. "Your memorabilia will help to tell the stories," Davenport said to the audience members, many of them returned Peace Corps volunteers. She noted that archival material can include a wide variety of materials from photographs to letters to field diaries. While the official records of the Peace Corps will be retained by the National Archives of the United States, the much more personal history of the Peace Corps volunteers will be documented by AU Library.

Peace Corps Stories

Fifteen returned Peace Corps volunteers, including Pat Wand and Congressman Sam Farr (D-California), made brief presentations in which they discussed their backgrounds, described their Peace Corps assignments and experiences, and spoke about their subsequent work in education, foreign service, and peace building. They also explained how their Peace Corp experience profoundly influenced their subsequent choices for work and study. All of the speakers spoke of challenges—acclimating to living arrangements in Malaysia and acquiring adequate healthcare skills in Guatemala--but also of the triumphs and joys of Peace Corps service. SIS professor, Ambassador Dane Smith and his wife, Judy, taught square dancing in Ethiopia. Shannon Alston, SIS/MA '14, still corresponds with the teens who were incarcerated when she worked with them in the Dominican Republic. The audience also heard stories about hunting tarantulas, adopting pets, and even marriages that resulted from the Peace Corps experiences. All found their lives profoundly affected by their service. As Professor Robert Pastor said, “I entered the Peace Corps, but the Peace Corps entered me,” as he discussed the lifelong effects of his service.

SIS Dean James Goldgeier also spoke and linked the goals of the Peace Corps with those of SIS. "We're very proud of our role as an educational institution that was founded to “wage peace.”' We have many students who come to SIS with that vision in mind," he said, adding that ten percent of the incoming master's students in fall 2013 will be returned Peace Corps volunteers. In 2013, the Peace Corps ranked AU second among medium-sized universities for service among graduates.

Donations

Those interested in donating to the University Library's Peace Corps archive, can contact the University Archivist Susan McElrath at archives@american.edu. To learn more about archive visit http://american.edu/library/archives/pcca.