Officials say over 100,000 people visited the Iowa Veterans Museum in 2012. Billie Bailey is executive director of the Grout Museum District in Waterloo, which includes the Iowa Veterans Museum.
“The mission of our organization is to collect, preserve and interpret the stories of Iowa’s veterans from the Civil War to the present. We also collect the stories of the home front workers and those who stayed behind in support of our veterans,” Bailey says. “There’s no better way to preserve those stories than to preserve them in the person’s own words and that is what we’ve been doing for the last nearly 10 years.”
The museum currently has 1,400 videotaped interviews with veterans from 70 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The staff is using a combination of private grants and state funding to finance collecting 300 more interviews with veterans who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We are archiving all of those interviews,” she says. “My personal goal would be to go back to those people 10 or 20 years later and talk to them again and see what time and distance has done to their perspective. Coming home fresh and telling your story is one thing. Waiting 10 or 20 years and talking about it again, I think, could be a very interesting academic approach.”
Nearly half of the recorded interviews in the museum’s current collection feature the stories of World War II veterans. Only 11 percent of the videotaped interviews are with soldiers who’ve been in the service since 9/11.