Alumnus partners with GVSU Veterans History Project to share interviews, providing significant addition to collection

A Grand Valley alumnus seeking an appropriate avenue for attracting a larger audience for a collection of interviews with war veterans found the right fit at his alma mater.

Tony Lupo, '97, is working with James Smither, professor of history and director of the GVSU Veterans History Project, to place interviews with veterans, mostly from World War II, in the university's Special Collections. There are currently nearly 190 interviews, with the work continuing, Lupo said.

Besides adding these interviews, including eventual transcriptions, to the collection, plans also call for adding to the Veterans History Project's YouTube channel. The content includes interview videos done by Lupo and his partner, Ryan Fairfield, as well as podcasts set to start in July, Smither and Lupo said.

Tony Lupo and James Smither
Tony Lupo and James Smither
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

This work is a welcome and significant addition to an already robust — and continually growing — collection of more than 1,200 interviews exploring the experiences of veterans and civilian witnesses involved with American wars and conflicts, Smither said. The GVSU Veterans History Project is an archiving partner with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Smither said the content systems in place for the GVSU Veterans History Project will be able to extend the reach of work done by Lupo and Fairfield. "The more accessible you make it, the more valuable it is," he said.

As Lupo and Fairfield researched ways to promote the upcoming podcast as well as expand the reach of their work, they discovered the GVSU Veterans History Project.

"When we found this, I realized I could go back to my old university, share the interviews with their collections and cross promote each other's efforts to share these stories," Lupo said.

Lupo, who graduated from GVSU with a geology degree and is a geophysicist in the energy sector, said the work he does with Fairfield stems from a shared desire to collect these stories from veterans. 

They started recording interviews in 2003, using guidelines from the Library of Congress, Lupo said. Their collection of interviews grew through word of mouth. They felt an urgency to collect World War II stories from the aging generation, and, in turn, found veterans who were eager to share experiences and their caution about the societal forces that led to the war.

Veterans who had been tight-lipped with family members opened up in these interviews, said Lupo, who speculated that for some, it was easier, and in some ways therapeutic, to talk to strangers about their experiences.

Document that says Veterans History Project and The GVSU Veterans History Project with part of the URL visible.
A wide variety of users access the GVSU Veterans History Project.
Valerie Hendrickson
Podcast image with wording: "The warrior next door" and "podcast." A flag, house, porch and rocking chair is shown.
The podcast by Tony Lupo and Ryan Fairfield is set to launch in July.
Courtesy of Tony Lupo

Lupo and Fairfield are launching their podcast, "The Warrior Next Door," to share more widely these stories. Lupo said episodes will also include additional historical information about the war and war effort.

He said partnering with Smither in academia lends heft to their work, which continues and is now including veterans from other wars.

Preserving these stories through both digital means and transcriptions creates a trove of information for people including researchers, authors, other veterans and family members of veterans who want to know more, Smither said. The ability to search in the Special Collections is especially helpful, he said.

The stories are compelling and historically significant, Smither said, who noted the key when interviewing: "You go where the veteran's story takes you. Sometimes they'll say a lot about something that you didn't expect."