Peace Corps Writers
Jason Boog
    


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An interview by John Coyne

IN 1986 AT THE CELEBRATION at the of the twenty-fifty anniversary of the Peace Corps, IPrinter friendly version put together the first panel discussion on books written by Peace Corps writers. In the large tent on the Mall in Washington, D.C., those RPCVs who love great books and good writing gathered to discuss what RPCVs had written. It was at this meeting that novelist Suzy McKee Charnes (Nigeria 1961–62) asked if there was a library or museum collecting the writings of RPCVs. [Then (as now) the official records of the Peace Corps are preserved in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. No institution, however, had been systematically saving personal papers and documents of the former Volunteers and staff, and consequently, there was relatively little published on their actual work and experiences.]
     
As a result of that panel discussion, and the creation of the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (NCRPCV — now the NPCA) I was put on a panel of RPCVs to find a home for our writing. The panel was made up of Suzy McKee Charnes, Roger Landrum (Nigeria 1961–63), Margaret Pollock (Korea 1978–81) and one or two others, including, as I recall, Bob Cohen (Nigeria 1962–64), and myself.
     
I began to contact, as did others on the panel, colleges, universities and museums seeking a home for our collection. I can’t remember what other institutions volunteered to house our documents, but I convinced Notre Dame University and the Kennedy Library in Boston that our work belonged in their libraries.
     
Father Ted Hesburgh, then in his last year as President of Notre Dame, wrote that ND would be pleased to have the collection. Hesburgh was a great friend of the agency and his university had trained many Volunteers.
     
When I contacted the Kennedy Library, RPCV Henry Gwiazda (India 1964–66) was a curator there and he helped to secure the collection for the library. The NCRPCV, then under the leadership of Tim Carroll (Nigeria 1963-65), decided to place the collection in the Kennedy Library.
     
Recently I emailed the current curator of our Peace Corps Collection, Jaimie Quaglino, at the Kennedy Library about it, her background, and how RPCVs and PCVs can contribute to the Peace Corps Archives. Here’s what Jaimie had to say.

Jaimie, how long have you been at the Library and with the Collection?

I have worked as an archivist at the Kennedy Library since 2005 and with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) Collection since the beginning of this year. Before that, from 2001–2003, I worked part time assisting with archival work at the Kennedy Library while obtaining my double masters degrees in Archives Management and History at Simmons College in Boston, MA. Both my experience working with a variety of collections at the Kennedy Library, as well as my background in American 20th century history, have given me a good foundation to administer the RPCV Collection.

What is the history of the Peace Corps Collection?
The Collection has two major components to it — we collect both the Personal Papers of RPCVs and Oral Histories of RPCVs. The Personal Papers collection was established here about 25 years ago as the result of a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer reunion by the director of the Kennedy Library at that time, Dan Fenn. The Oral Histories have a different story. In 2000, Robert Klein (Ghana 1961–63), a member of Ghana I, who had been conducting interviews with other Ghana I members in order to write his memoir, approached the library with the idea of conducting interviews with RPCVs from all countries, and creating a more formal Oral History Program that could document all RPCV experiences.
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