Virtual Footlocker Project Preserves Veterans' Memories Digitally



July 3, 2019

BATON ROUGE – LSU School of Library & Information Science Assistant Professor Edward Benoit, III, PhD, recently received a $391,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, for the Virtual Footlocker Project, or VFP. This project was inspired by both Benoit’s personal experience as a veteran and as the son of a retired Air Force officer.

Benoit inherited his father’s footlocker filled with letters, pictures, journals and other memorabilia.

“I began thinking about what items would mark my time in service and of current military personnel,” Benoit said.

For generations, airmen, sailors and soldiers documented their wartime experiences in personal diaries, photographs and correspondence. Veterans often kept those collections long after their service and handed them down to family members. Some items eventually make their way to museums. In archives, these treasured personal military service accounts serve a vital role in humanizing wartime sacrifices and experiences.

“With the shift towards digital technologies over the past 20 years, the contemporary 21st-century soldier no longer creates the same analog personal archives,” Benoit said. “That creates a critical future gap in the record.”

Having already completed research to determine how contemporary veterans and active duty personnel document their service, Benoit will use the IMLS funding to further investigate best practices and protocols for archivists assisting veterans and active duty personnel to preserve their personal digital archives.

To determine the best way to preserve veterans’ experiences for future generations, Benoit will conduct a series of focus groups, map technical requirements on existing standards, identify technical and policy-based challenges and propose a functional framework for protocol design. Using those findings, he will develop a series of workshops for archivists.

VFP has already received regional and national attention and accolades. The project received support from the United Service Organizations, Wounded Warrior Project, the Louisiana Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Louisiana National Guard Museum, the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project and the National WWII Museum.

Benoit, the Russell B. Long Professor in the School of Library & Information Science, received a LSU College of Human Sciences & Education Dean’s Circle grant in 2015 to conduct a preliminary study that explored how contemporary veterans and active duty personnel documented their time in service, the types of formats used and where they stored these documents, videos and images.

Benoit’s new award came from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which received 88 preliminary proposals requesting nearly $25 million. Thirty-seven finalists were invited to submit full proposals with the IMLS ultimately investing $8 million for the development of 24 projects.

“These grant recipients demonstrate the many ways that libraries are playing a central role in serving the diverse and unique needs of their communities,” said IMLS Director Kathryn K. Matthew. “Through programs serving veterans, inspiring lifelong learning and fostering the digital literacy skills necessary to thrive in today’s world, these funded grants will help communities all across the country flourish.”

About School of Library & Information Science

The School of Library and Information Science, or SLIS, awards the Master in Library and Information Science, or MLIS, degree and Graduate Certificates in Archival Studies, Records and Information Management and School Librarianship. SLIS also offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Library Science, undergraduate minors in Digital Studies and Library Science and a Communication-Intensive undergraduate general education course.

Visit for more information on the LSU School of Library & Information Science.

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education, or CHSE, is a nationally accredited division of LSU. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Library & Information Science, the School of Social Work and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer eight undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs and seven online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The college is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

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Adrian Hirsch

LSU College of Human Sciences & Education


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