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Programming with Library of Congress Digital Collections : Military Experience

This guide is designed to help all types of libraries explore primary sources available from the Library of Congress online collection, and to connect with their communities through programming and educational opportunities.

Subject Category: Arts

Military primary sources cover service personnel, relief workers, politicians, people on the home front and those whose lives were impacted.

two African American World War I infantry soldiers standing in front of a photographers backdrop



The Library of Congress has a diverse array of collections categorized as military and war. The collections encompass materials from the American Revolution to the Vietnam War. They also cover relief work done by Clara Barton and the creation of the American Red Cross. There are papers from several presidents and other politicians including those of George S. Patton and John J. Pershing. The collections give us not only a glimpse of the military field but allow us to look into the personal lives of people involved.


image: [World War I Infantry soldiers, standing in front of photographers backdrop], (c.1914-1918) in the Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs.

Clara Barton Papers


Clara Barton circa 1862


The Library of Congress Clara Barton Papers contains over 62,000 images spanning the years of 1805-1958. It includes correspondence, diaries, journals, reports, legal and financial papers. The collection covers Barton's time as a teacher, a relief worker in the Civil War and the Franco-Prussion War and her founding of the American National Red Cross in 1881. 

The collection offers a glimpse at how relief work was conducted during war and disasters and the politics behind offering that assistance.

image: Clara Barton at The Climax of Her Civil War Service, (unknown date) in Clara Barton Papers collection.

Collection Highlights

except of speech give by Clara Barton

The Nation woke from it's dream of peace...

Excerpt of lecture give by Clara Barton, date unknown. "In 1861 the first great blow of organized war fell upon our land. The Nation woke from it's dream of peace, at the thunder of wave-washed Sumpter: and the 19th of April found the few loyal citizens of the National Capital...thrilled and bewildered..."

Legal certificate in German granting Clara Barton safe passage on the Baden railway to help with sick and poor

No. 654 Legitimations . Schein

Certificate dated 12, October, 1870 from the Badischer-Women's-Association under the Protectorate of Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess Louise. The certificate (translated) granted Clara Barton safe passage and free carriage in the second railway class  of the Baden Railway so that she can help the "sick of this army" during the Franco-Prussian War.

Letter on American National Red Cross stationary from Clara Barton to W.H. Andrews of Marble Falls, TX

Galveston, Texas, October 9, 1900

Letter from The American National Red Cross President, Clara Barton, to W.H. Andrews, Esq., of Marble Falls, Texas dated October 9, 1900, thanking him for a box of clothing donations. Barton was in Galveston, Texas after a hurricane made landfall on September 8, 1900. The hurricane claimed an estimated 8,000 lives and destroyed the city of Galveston.

Letter from Harriet Upton Taylor of the National American Women Suffrage Association to Clara Barton

I am afraid that you will think that I have lost my mind...

Letter dated December 20, 1905 from Harriet Upton Taylor of the National American Women Suffrage Association to Clara Barton.Taylor is requesting scraps of material from memorable events that Barton attended so that she can make a quilt. "I thought ...I would like to  make it from the dresses of suffragists. I thought too if these pieces could be from dresses which were worn on great occasions..."

Programming Ideas

Women were not allowed to openly serve in the military until World War I. They found many ways, however, to support military efforts during conflicts from working as cooks, or seamstresses, collecting donations or volunteering for local charity/relief efforts. Many women served as nurses in various conflicts. Clara Barton had a special nurses pass that allowed her to go on the battlefield to assist wounded soldiers. 

For this program select some items in the Clara Barton Collection that focus on women and service. Discuss the various roles that women fulfilled in assisting military efforts and how that assistance has changed over time to modern participation in the military. 

Additional sources:


Illustrated instructions on how to use a triangular bandage

"Illustrated Triangular Bandage of the National First Aid Association of America," (unknown date) in Clara Barton Papers collection.

One of the things that Clara Barton did was to help establish the National First Aid Association of America whose mission was to promote emergency preparedness and first aid programs. Program ideas include inviting first responders to come to the library to talk about what to do in an emergency and how 911 works or creating an emergency kit for the home or vehicle. 

You can use Chronicling America for a wide variety of programs related to military experience. You can do a search for "Clara Barton" and get a glimpse of her earliest efforts of offering assistance during the Civil War to tracing the development of the American National Red Cross. You can also look for articles about different battles and wars that Barton provided relief work for. 

Newspaper clipping "The Angel of the Battle Field" about Clara Barton helping during the Civil War

"The Angel of the Battle Field," published November 13, 1862 in the Worcester Daily Spy newspaper.

Related Collections

The Library of Congress provides access to two digital collections about African American Military Experience. The William A. Gladstone Afro-American Military Collection and the William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs. The Library purchased both collections from Gladstone in 1995. 

The Afro-American Military Collection has approximately 500 items spanning the years 1773 to 1987. It contains correspondence, enlistment and discharge papers, muster roles, tax records and other documents. 

The Collection of African American Photographs contains almost 350 images related to military and social history. The majority of the collection covers the Civil War but has photographs covering conflicts through World War II. 

Spanish American War, Infantry, holding Krag rifle with fixed bayonette, cartridge belt


[Spanish American War, Infantry, holding Krag rifle with fixed bayonette, cartridge belt] (ca. 1898), taken by Electro Photo Co., of Tampa Florida.


The Veterans History Project Collection contain first hand accounts of U.S. Military Veterans. The collection spans Veterans from World War I to current conflicts and peacekeeping missions. The collection contains unedited audio and video oral history interviews and memoirs, photographs, letters and diaries.

The collection can be used to conduct programs on military experience or the shifting nature of conflicts that the United States are involved in. 

Rights and Access: The Library of Congress does not own the copyright to the materials in the Veterans History Project Collection. The copyright remains with the Veterans and Interviewers and it is up to the user to assess copyright or other use restrictions and obtain use permission when necessary. Therefore, permission must be obtained before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication. Researchers or others who would like to make further use of these materials should contact the Veterans History Project for assistance.


military poster "Dim Out" your loose talk as a protection against "subs"

"Dim Out" Your Loose Talk, date and creator unknown.

The World War II Rumor Project Collection contains material collected by the Office of War Information (OWI). Established by Executive Order in June 1942, they were responsible for collecting on the ground information of what citizens were saying about war efforts. They utilized field correspondents who often worked in the community, including librarians, who collected the rumors in their community. Instructors also collected rumors, jokes, and rhymes from high school and college students. 

This collection lends itself to a program about misinformation and/or the use of propaganda.

Please note the potentially harmful or offensive material statement at bottom of page.

Statement on Potentially Harmful Content and Fair Use

Statement on Potentially Harmful Content
Some of the materials presented in this guide may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved by the Library of Congress and presented here for their historical significance. 

Fair Use

Digitized primary sources in the Library's collection each include a "Rights and Access" or "Rights Advisory" statement within the catalog information.  These can help users determine whether the item is in the public domain or whether there are copyright restrictions.  For more information about the Library of Congress' policy on Copyrights and Primary Sources visit the website.