Mission Statement


Founded in 1997 by the late Dr. William Oldson, the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience strives to preserve the photographs, letters, and artifacts of service members and their families. Since our founding, we have continued to enable thousands of veterans to preserve their legacies of service.  Our collections of primary resources now total over 7,000, largely in the form of personal papers. They are contained in nearly 800 cubic feet of paper documents, 75 cubic feet of photographs, 382 linear feet of books, more than 600 maps, paintings, and magazines, and 300 cubic feet of artifacts. These collections came to Tallahassee from 49 states and Washington, D.C., as well as dozens of collections from around the world . One of the Institute’s largest collections, donated by Tom Brokaw, contains the thousands of letters, photographs, manuscripts, and books he collected while writing The Greatest Generation and subsequent works.  Our first major collections came from Paul Dougherty, a photographer with the 9th Air Force and 3rd Army, and George R. Langford, who served in the 20th Armored Division under General George Patton in France.

Each year, the Institute sponsors events that seek to bring new perspectives and cutting edge scholarship to the Florida State community. Our semi-annual lecture program has brought leading scholars to campus for speaking engagements since 2012. Additionally, we have sponsored two international academic conferences in Tallahassee, one focusing on the Global History of Religion in the Second World War and the other examining Comparative Home Fronts. Other initiatives have led to an exhibit, “Witness to War” at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida (2013) that included selections from the Institute’s extensive photograph collections. The exhibit “The Human Experience,” at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts (2015) offered a comprehensive overview of the Institute’s extensive holdings of documents and artifacts.

The Institute strives not only to serve the needs of scholars, but also to make our facilities a living history laboratory for students at Florida State University. Through digital humanities projects like crowdsourcing letters and diary transcriptions, digitization of photographic collections, and hands-on learning for students in Museum Studies, the Institute serves as a distinctive resource for students learning how to “do” history in the twenty-first century.  Beyond researching and processing collections, the Institute allows for students to hold administrative and editing positions.  These positions, under guidance of the director and archivist, give opportunities to gain hands-on leadership experience. For example, a team of 20 undergraduate and 5 graduate students from Institute managed every aspect of the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History hosted by the Institute at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront (March 30-April 2, 2017).

We welcome researchers seeking to investigate any aspect of World War II.  The Institute’s collections strengths include the American home front, the role of women, the European, Pacific, and China-Burma-India Theaters of Operations, the American Merchant Marine, Viennese Jewish community, and the American occupation of Germany and Japan. Our collections supported a number of publications and media projects, including the History Channel documentary series, The Color of War

We are currently in the process of creating publicly accessible finding aids for our holdings, which can be found on our Special Collections page here. While Archon still represents a small portion of our holdings, you can find more collections by submitting a formal research inquiry to our staff at ww2@ww2.fsu.edu.  As a result of a gift from the late Thomas S. Cundy, Sr., the Institute offers a travel grant to Tallahassee for research in the Institute’s Collections.  A long-term goal of the Institute is to provide pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship for the study of the Second World War.

The Institute receives support from the several units of Florida State University, including the History Department and the College of Arts and Sciences.  Private philanthropy plays an integral part in funding Institute lectures, conferences, and salaries for the Institute Archivist and student assistants. The Florida State University Foundation is currently seeking private gifts in order to create a permanent home for the Institute as part of the Veteran Legacy Complex that would also house the Student Veteran Center and the ROTC programs.

For more information, explore our website and visit our Contact Us page to learn more about how to contact the Institute.

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