The Veterans History Project iPhone/Web App: A HubSpire Creation

May 28, 2020

This is America’s moment of victory, as nearly 20 years of painstaking efforts into streamlining the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress, the largest oral history program of its kind in the country, have evolved as a unified digital initiative with the launch of the VHP web app and iPhone app, developed by New York-based mobile app design and development agency HubSpire.
Presented to the Library of Congress at Washington, DC in March last week, the apps make HubSpire’s first-ever project for the government. Created for wartime veterans and patriotic Americans, the apps break many barriers of time and technology and bring untold stories and experiences from history to the surface like never before, inspiring you in many ways.
To pull off this amazing app, HubSpire teamed up with Dr. Jean Rhodes (Frank L. Boyden Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston) and Nancy McNamara (President of Academic Web Pages, the nation’s leading provider of websites for academic institutions), the masterminds behind the apps along with representatives of American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Created in 2000 by the US Congress, the VHP collects and preserves the first person narratives of US wartime veterans for future generations. Aside the realities of wartime situations, these interviews of the veterans underscore patriotic stories that help the country hold its fabric together. The VHP’s goal is to encourage civilians to connect with the nation’s veterans and make them archive the first person narratives of the veterans.

Greatest oral history project
Conducted under the supervision of Congressional offices, the VHP program is spearheaded by volunteers from veteran service organizations, universities, schools, community, and the public. The VHP’s collection – of interviews, letters, diaries, photos, memoirs, and historic documents related to a veteran’s wartime service – is kept in the safe custody of the Library of Congress. So far, volunteer interviewers have recorded the narratives of about 100,000 veterans of World War I through current conflicts, and as things stand today, the project is ready for some much-awaited digital acceleration.

How can the web/mobile app help the VHP?
As we said earlier, the VHP took root nearly two decades ago, long before the dawn of digital technologies and the proliferation of smartphones. Volunteer interviewers had to face a lot of barriers from downloading to printing and filling out many forms to lack of flexibility in devising questions to video recording to re-watching the interview to tag it to burning the interview to a compact disk and mailing the whole collection to the Library of Congress. Today, all those barriers have vanished with the simplicity of a swipe: volunteers can conduct audio/video interviews and edit the interviews, tag, and submit their interviews to the Library of Congress through their smartphones. Now, people all over the country can download the app and interview veterans.

Team behind the project
Brainchild of the sisters Dr. Jean and Nancy, the VHP web/mobile app project is the result of years of collaboration with the VHP staff at the Library of Congress, and of course, the personal contributions of time and funding by the sisters themselves.
AARP is the founding corporate sponsor of the VHP. Besides providing major initial funding for the project, AARP encouraged its legion of volunteers and about 37 million members to get involved in the project. Numerous state chapters also got involved.

As for the design and development of the web/mobile app, HubSpire put together an accomplished team of software engineers and harnessed the potential of Nodejs, Reactjs, Mongodb, and Objective C to create a simple UI and functionality. The app is capable of handling a massive database with its simple, intuitive features.

How does the app work?
The app works in a four-pronged way, starting with the initial reach-out to a veteran, followed by preparations for the interview, conduct of the interview, and completion and submission of the interview. Given below are details on the four stages of the interview.

A) Locate A Veteran:
The veteran may be a member of your family or community, or you can reach out to veterans’ organizations to finalize an interviewee.

B) Prepare for the interview:
Reach out to a veteran before interview and complete the biographical data form together (found in the app).
Conduct background research on relevant information (e.g., veteran’s service branch, war).
Identify a quiet, well-lit room for the interview (e.g., veteran’s home, library).
For better quality, bring a tripod and lapel microphone.
Bring along a charger, notebook, pen and tissues.
Make sure iPhone is fully charged and silenced.

C) Conduct the interview:
Complete required forms and select your questions.
Select audio or video format.
Begin recording, pausing anytime.
Tap screen during interview to tag notable moments; you can annotate later.
Record for at least 30 minutes to qualify for archival in the Library of Congress.

D) Interview completion and submission:
Annotate the tags, or save and minimize app for later annotation.
If you have completed all forms and annotations, submit for review. Upload can take up several minutes.
Take a photo of the veteran and request original or digital photos of relevance.
Thank your interviewee for their generosity, and tell them to be in touch if they have any questions or concerns.
Notify the veteran once the interview is available on the app/website.
Also, capture the digital signature of the interviewer and veteran before submission of the interview.

Today’s a big day for the government and for us at HubSpire. Now, it’s your turn to contribute to the prestigious national project by being a part of it. We welcome and encourage every citizen of the United States to become a part of our nation’s greatest digital campaign.
We thank Nancy, Dr. Jean, the University of Massachusetts, and the Library of Congress for giving HubSpire an opportunity to work with the government on a project of national importance. And we salute all the veterans who have served the country.

Feedback from the client
Wanna know what the Library of Congress, Dr. Jean, and Nancy had to say about HubSpire’s design and development capabilities? Dr. Jean said, “My sister and I worked with HubSpire to develop an app for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project. This is a Congressionally mandated program and one of the largest oral history projects in the country. The project had many requirements and was complicated, but the HubSpire team had an upbeat “can do” attitude from start to finish. They were responsive to all of our requests, as well as those of Library staff, and delivered every milestone on time with results that exceeded our expectations. The elegant and sophisticated app and integrated website have received rave reviews. In fact the Librarian of Congress and the Director of the Veteran’s History project have both raved about their extraordinary work (e.g., “I’m blown away”). I could not recommend HubSpire more highly. HubSpire is a top flight team that delivers top quality results on time.”
Nancy said, “Working with Hubspire was a great experience. In addition to creating a rock-solid app and website, they went over and above the services we contracted for and provided the design as well. The layout, colors, images, drawings and design they provided were excellent. After learning our requirements, they created a comprehensive product specification with features and dates, and met every single deadline, and provided many more features than we originally requested at no extra cost. Hubspire knew better than we did what features were needed and how they should be implemented! Hubspire cared just as much about the quality and usability of the app as we did, and the final product shows.”
You can now download the app from the app store:
Let us know what you think of it.
Stay tuned for the next blog release in which we will discuss how HubSpire has helped the Library of Congress streamline the collection of important veterans’ data from a painstaking multi-day process that required more manpower into something so simple that the whole interview recording activity can be done in a matter of minutes today by even a high school student with an iPhone.