November 8, 2002 - PCOL Exlcusive: Ghana I RPCV Bob Klein collects Peace Corps Oral Histories

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 11 November 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: November 8, 2002 - PCOL Exlcusive: Ghana I RPCV Bob Klein collects Peace Corps Oral Histories

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, November 08, 2002 - 9:43 am: Edit Post

The Peace Corps Oral History Project

Caption: Richard Cándida Smith, Berkeley’s new Regional Oral History Office director, has a vision for the future, in which the oral history collection is more tightly woven into the tapestry of teaching and research on campus.

Ghana I RPCV Bob Klein collects Peace Corps Oral Histories

Read and comment on this story from the Ghana I RPCV Bob Klein on the work he is doing to create an oral history of Peace Corps Volunteers and what you can do to get involved at:

What is a Mythographer? *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

What is a Mythographer?

Bob Klein (Ghana 1961-63)

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1961 with the first project to go overseas --- Ghana I. Years later, in retirement, I thought it would be worthwhile to try to tell our story and I began to travel throughout the U.S., tracking down others in the group, plus our field staff, training faculty, and even those deselected. Whenever possible, I taped oral history interviews with each, focusing on their experiences in the Peace Corps. Researching the book also took me to the Kennedy Library in Boston and the National Archives in Washington.

When the manuscript was finished, I realized that, whether the book got published or not, I had collected a considerable amount of excellent archival material, especially the tapes. In doing research, I learned that existing archives contain much about Peace Corps as a government agency and many other materials focusing on the administrative center and the administrators, such as Shriver, Wofford, Moyers. But, it was only in the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection at the Kennedy Library that the stories and voices of the volunteers were preserved. Here the focus was the field, not headquarters. However, the Collection was somewhat skimpy. Putting all this together, I decided to donate the tapes to the Collection (interviewees had signed waivers already to that effect) and to work with the Archivist to develop a project that would reach out to all RPCVs and significantly strengthen the archives at the Kennedy Library. This was the genesis of the RPCV Archival Project.

Knowing that titles, even self-anointed ones, impress people and add weight to your words, I created the position of RPCV Mythographer and proceeded to travel around on my usual friends and family circuit, but now with a difference. In each area I went to --- San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, Philadelphia, Seattle --- I would contact the local NPCA affiliated group to find RPCVs I might interview. Initially, I concentrated on the 1960s generation, figuring that age dictated such an approach. As interviews were done, I also encouraged interviewees to go to the attic or basement, open that musty closet, find the neglected cache of letters, diaries, photos from their Peace Corps days and communicate with the Archivist about what might usefully be donated. Before interviews, people would suggest that remembering events of 30 to 40 years ago would not give a Śtrue' picture of what happened. I told them that the interview is their memory of these events, no more no less, and that future historians will sort out the realities from the creative nonfictions. That is what led me to the title of mythographer --- we record the memories (myths) because the stories are important and worth telling. Others felt that they could not recall much. However, once the tape recorder was turned on and we began talking (the interview is conversational, not rapid question and response), memories flowed easily. The average interview runs 90 to 120 minutes.

The Project has evolved. To assist others in doing interviews and identifying collectable materials, there is a Project Guide. The present goal is to recruit project coordinators/facilitators for as many NPCA groups as possible. The various RPCV groups that are affiliated with the NPCA are the logical centers for building the archives, particularly the geographic area groups --- Philadelphia, Southern Arizona, Bay Area, etc. However, country of service groups can also participate --- here there may be an incentive to assure that the stories of a particular project are included in the archive. If Ghana is there, why not Micronesia, Lithuania, Iran? Although the 1960s era is a priority for practical reasons related to aging, the Collection welcomes materials from all generations of RPCVs, 1961 to the present.

If you are interested in the project, inform fellow RPCVs about it and try to work with an affiliated NPCA group. The need is for local interviewers and project coordinators. Contact me ( or the RPCV Archivist at the Kennedy Library, James Roth ( If you have questions and comments about the Archival Project, let me know. If you have personal materials to donate to the RPCV Collection, contact James Roth before you mail anything to the Kennedy Library. Until the project is broadly established (our goal by 2004), do not request to be interviewed.

I'll let you know when RPCV Mythographer Decoder Rings are available.

The RPCV Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection of the John F. Kennedy Library is the repository for materials that reflect the individual and group experiences of those who served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the field from its inception in 1961 to the present day.

The Collection includes personal papers, such as letters, diaries, and journals, representative sets of photographs, oral history interviews, and other items of unique archival value.

The goal of the Archival Project is to afford the greatest number of RPCVs the opportunity to include their stories in the Collection. Donated materials and taped interviews become part of the files of the National Archives and Records Administration and, as such, are accessible to the public (including RPCVs' families, grandchildren, great grandchildren).

Donations are properly preserved and protected in contrast to the often neglectful treatment such materials receive.

The Project functions primarily through the affiliated groups of the National Peace Corps Association ‹ Country of Service, Geographic Area, and Special Interest ‹ under the guidance of the Archivist of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection. Individuals may also take part in the Project.

A participating affiliated group receives a Project Guide, fully describing the guidelines and procedures for conducting oral history interviews and arranging for donation of personal papers. Orientation and interviewer training are available.

If you and your group are interested in organizing a local project, contact BOB KLEIN, RPCV Mythographer

About the Author

Bob Klein was a volunteer in the Ghana I group and later became the Peace Corps Director in Ghana (1966-68). In 1973, Bob returned to Ghana with his family to teach. In recent years, he held various teaching and administrative positions in New Jersey and retired in 1994 to Tucson, AZ.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; What RPCVs are doing; Special Interests - History; COS - Ghana



By Bernard L. Benn on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 2:50 pm: Edit Post

Interested in catching up?
I'm curious who reads these things.

Bernie Benn

By Elaine Serrano on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 3:19 pm: Edit Post


People who are really, really bored at work read these things, that's who. Where do you live now? Do you still play the guitar?

You knew me as Bobbe Futterman when I was in Tunisia. (That is, if you remember me at all - I wasn't very memorable.) I've had several name changes since.

If you're interested, I'm still in touch with Ron Castaldi and the Lotzes...though I'm not sure why.

What's new?

By GHARBI Mohamed ( on Monday, March 13, 2006 - 6:41 pm: Edit Post



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