The Oral History Project was initiated in 1999 by Robert "Bob" Klein (Ghana I, 1961-1963) when Peace Corps celebrated its 35th anniversary in an effort to capture the individual experiences of every Volunteer who trained and served in Ghana I. He noted that several Volunteers in Ghana I had died and taken their precious stories with them. He realized that pieces of Peace Corps history were disappearing. Working with archivists at JFK Presidential Library, Klein developed the protocol for oral history interviewing. The capacity of the Oral History Project was expanded to include virtual interviews through an additional partnership with the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in 2020.
The in-depth interview includes a discussion of the Volunteer’s life before Peace Corps, Peace Corps training, the experience of serving as a Volunteer in-country, and reflections on the impact Peace Corps service had on the Volunteer, the host country and the United States. In 2021 the interview format was modified to accommodate current and former Peace Corps staff members and counterparts. Interviews average sixty to ninety minutes.
Klein soon discovered the need to expand the project to capture Peace Corps stories from as many countries and eras as possible. He conducted dozens of interviews and over time trained 25 other RPCVs to do the same. Before his death in 2012 he asked his friend Phyllis Noble (Nigeria, 1965-1967) to lead the effort, which she tirelessly did until her passing in 2017.
Currently, the Project is managed by a leadership team:
- Candy Wiggum (Returned Volunteer, Republic of North Macedonia 2009-2012)
- Cedar Spring Wolf (Returned Volunteer, Namibia 2006-2008, Philippines 2011)
- Christie Musa (Returned Volunteer, Sierra Leone 1981-1983)
- Evelyn Ganzglass (Returned Volunteer, Somalia 1966-1968)
- Harry Bennett (Returned Volunteer, Belize 2002-2004)
- Jay Sztuk (Returned Volunteer, Fiji 1974-1976)
- Pat Wand (Returned Volunteer, Colombia 1963-1965)
- Peggy Walton (Returned Volunteer, Ukraine 1994-1996, 2013-2014, 2015-2016)
- Violet Esipila (Returned Volunteer, Ukraine 2017-2019)