Honoring Our Veterans and Remembering Our History

The Institute of Museum and Library Services plays a vital role in preserving military history

The recent Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day holidays were for celebrating those who made one of the greatest sacrifices for our country, veterans. These aren’t just distant heroes, they are those who grew up in our hometowns, someone’s best friend, someone’s child, and someone who had a dedication to serving our country. Libraries recognize the important role that veterans have played in all our lives and cherish their sacrifices by honoring them in millions of ways.

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IMLS Funding Efforts

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has always been an avid supporter of libraries and their visions. It is an independent federal agency that provides grants to libraries and museums and works to advance innovation and inspire lifelong learning. The grants that are distributed each year fund many innovative and interesting projects. They come in all varieties from preserving indigenous culture to closing the technology gap.

Honoring Veterans

Institutions all over the country have used IMLS grants to educate people about Americans who have served. They’ve been doing so by collecting, sharing, and honoring the stories of military veterans. These institutions curate oral stories, community histories, and critical items. These all tie together to give the public insight into the lives of veterans and their experiences in the military.

So many projects and exhibits highlighting military life have sprung up thanks to the IMLS. One grant has been the catalyst. The Save America’s Treasures grant has given institutions the opportunity to give new life to artifacts of the past. The Home Port Alliance for Battleship New Jersey, for example, chose to use the grant to replace portions of the battleship’s deck. This was a highly decorated military vessel that served for over half a century, from 1943 to 2000. The ship was used extensively and spends its retirement teaching visitors about military life in the second half of the 20th century. Visitors can explore above and below deck and are able to experience almost every aspect of the ship from sitting in the captain’s chair to laying on the sailors’ bunks.

Another institution also took similar steps with their funds from the Save America’s Treasures grant. The Buffalo Naval Park Committee is using the grant money to repair the USS The Sullivans, a destroyer vessel named after five brothers who died in World War II. In addition to the USS The Sullivans, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park also have four other decommissioned military vessels in their possession.

Community Salute

The IMLS also created the Community Salute Initiative which was made to strengthen the ability of libraries, museums, and other institutions to respond to the needs of veterans and military families. This was the product of extensive research, interview sessions, and conversations which led to the creation of five resource guides that were tailored specifically to the ways libraries, museums, and archives could work with community veterans.

These five guides covered multiple ways in which institutions can support veterans and military families. They begin by helping institutions understand veteran communication networks, highlighting demographics, lifestyle, and other analyses that would help them better understand the needs and motivations of veterans. Other guides focused on identifying the roles that institutions have, how to partner with other organizations in supporting veterans, capturing veteran stories, and an overview for tailoring services to veterans.

Other Library Initiatives

Other libraries in the country have also put on remarkable programs that tell the stories of veterans and enlighten their communities about the experiences that veterans have faced. The Gail Borden Public Library created Veterans Voice, a program that connects veterans with students. These events feature veterans who have volunteered to tell their stories at schools and other locations in the area. They can be as casual or formal as people would like and are focused on sharing stories.

The Big Read is another event that sparked a series of conversations. This was a multi-partner project that centered around Tim O’Brien’s novel “The Things They Carried” and gave veterans an opportunity to speak and be heard. Thousands of people were involved in creating the event and participating in it. The effects were felt throughout the community. The most important aspect of the program was that veterans were able to connect with others through stories. Additionally, students in the community learned about topics that are challenging to teach in a school setting such as the Vietnam War.


The IMLS deserves a lot of credit for the impact that their work and grants have made on libraries and other institutions in the country. With funding being a concern for many learning spaces, it is more important than ever that institutions have support in furthering their missions and carrying out projects that benefit countless people. The IMLS has done a wonderful job of filling this role and continues to inspire the community by preserving valuable history.