Arena is programming and outreach coordinator for the Franklin County Public Library

Last week my friend received one of the most important documents of his life: A Certificate of Retirement from the U.S. military, honorably discharging him after nearly 30 years of service. The certificate looks modest, almost plain. His name, rank and date of retirement are printed in unembellished text on off-white cardstock paper. Were it not for the formality of military insignia, the document seems nondescript. Despite its humble appearance, however, the certificate has profound personal meaning and in its own way reflects a piece of American history. It’s also an example of the types of documents that the Library of Virginia is collecting in an archive of materials related to World War I and World War II. This November the public can bring their World War documents, photographs and other memorabilia to the Franklin County Public Library to have them scanned for the archive.

In honor of Veterans Day 2019, the library will host Virginia’s Profiles of Honor Scanning Project, which is three years into building a publicly accessible online archive of original materials, military and civilian, from the World Wars. The project is sponsored by the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission and the Library of Virginia. On Nov. 8 and 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., staff from the Commemoration Commission will visit the library to scan materials. Anyone — veterans, civilians, relatives or collectors — with original World War materials can have them scanned for free. Thanks in part to funds from the Friends of Main Library, we are currently the first and only site in Franklin County to host the scanning project.

It’s not too early to start gathering materials. The only requirements are that the materials are originals and can be placed on a flatbed scanner. Beyond that, a broad range of materials are eligible, even those in fragile or deteriorating condition.

“While we’re interested in documenting Virginia’s role in world history, we will not turn away anyone’s materials even if they don’t relate to Virginia,” said Rusty Nix, communications manager with the Commemoration Commission. “Materials can reflect any aspect of social, family, political, military, business, or religious life related to the World Wars, overseas or on the home front.” Nix also noted that the owners of the materials will keep their originals.

My friend will hang his retirement certificate near another family treasure, a photograph of his grandfather posing with his U.S. Army Air Forces unit, stationed in Great Britain near the end of World War II. These records of family history and military service will be displayed for his loved ones. In a similar spirit, the Profiles of Honor archive provides the means to share World War memories with generations to come.


The library has compiled frequently asked questions about the Profiles of Honor scanning process. To request a copy or receive updates about the November event, email or call Christine Arena at 483-3098, ext. 2441.

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