The GPEI History Project

Upon request from the Polio Oversight Board in 2016 to document the history of GPEI, the partnership designated a cross-institutional team composed of members of the core partner agencies – Rotary International (RI), the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMFG) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – and hired staff to execute the project. The main objective of the GPEI History Project is to ensure documentation of the history of global polio eradication, the global partnership, and lessons learned, and recognize those involved in the efforts. This history will be presented in an online repository, available to the general public and future researchers.

Currently, all GPEI partners are focusing on their individual institutional polio histories. This new partnership approach will take a broad global perspective and focus on the successes of the global collaboration over the 30 years of its existence.

The history project has the following main objectives:

  • Identifying existing archival and historical collections held by the GPEI partners and other organizations with a significant role in polio eradication. This includes archival collections, publications, artifacts, moving images, sound recordings, and oral histories.
  • Identifying gaps in the archival record and resolving access barriers to those records.
  • Conducting oral histories of selected individuals who represent the histories of polio eradication operations and tactics (especially in-country and on-the-ground implementation), social and political mobilization, policy development and strategic planning, partnership management and donor coordination, and oversight and independent monitoring. Individuals include polio survivors, workers from around the world, and underrepresented or marginalized groups to ensure a balanced, multi-vocal narrative.

The history project intends to bring the story of the eradication of polio and the GPEI to a broader audience both now and after eradication by collaborating with the David J. Sencer CDC Museum and other museums.

CDC, UNICEF, RI, BMGF, WHO archives / history on each agency’s website

Rotary International

The Rotary International Archives preserves business records of the PolioPlus Program of Rotary International, including its international operations through national, regional, and international PolioPlus committees; fundraising and marketing campaigns; and partnerships with other organizations. Holdings also include artifacts created by Rotary and its partner organizations, such as apparel, original art, banners, posters, promotional giveaways, vaccine paraphernalia; awards presented to Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation in recognition of its commitments to polio eradication; audiovisual materials like photographs, films, analog and digital video and audio; and the websites for the End Polio Now campaign and the End Polio Now Facebook page.

For more information, please visit the Rotary History page

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), established by the Federal Records Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 21), is the federal government’s chief records management agency. NARA is responsible for the custody, use, withdrawal, and preservation of federal records. NARA preserves records containing adequate and proper documentation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions. Federal records are public property and managed according to applicable laws and regulations. The David J. Sencer CDC Museum manages CDC holdings that include artifacts created by the CDC and its partner organizations, such as: graphic arts, material culture, laboratory tools, sculpture, textiles, toys, prints, photography, furniture, costume, books, media and audiovisual resources, ephemera; and the website Global Health Chronicles.  

For information on the National Archives please visit:

The Records of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page on the National Archives website and search the National Archives Catalog

David J. Sencer CDC Museum

Global Health Chronicles


Poliomyelitis page of the WHO Archives

Oral histories

What is an oral history?

Oral history is a collaborative process and style of interviewing that yields two primary source documents: a recording and a transcript (audio and/or video). These documents are lightly edited and archived in a physical or digital repository, usually as part of a larger collection. Although interviews can be lightly edited, no information is deleted. Interviews are archived in their entirety.

Oral histories differ from journalistic interviews and provide insight into how history is lived and remembered. Targeting human perception and information that might not be otherwise documented (“soft knowledge”), oral histories work to record biographical information, sensory detail, impressions, motivations, decision-making processes, and descriptions of interpersonal dynamics, among other types of information. To elicit first-person narrative, oral history interviews are conversational in nature and position interviewees and interviewers with shared influence over the direction of the exchange. Oral history does not aim to record dates and names, information which is more accurately verified in documents.

The GPEI History Project is a two-pronged effort to collect the history of GPEI: conducting oral histories and aggregating digital information that pertains to artifacts and documents.  The main objective of the oral history portion of the GPEI History Project is to collect the recollections of the GPEI partner organizations and personnel.