Oral History Projects
While individual oral histories can contribute to specific research goals and agendas, the strength of an oral-history collection relies on the ability of individual oral histories to ‘speak’ to each other. Scientists, though often credited individually for a discovery, are rarely lone researchers working in isolation from other scientists. The knowledge that is produced in a scientific lab receives contributions not only from the members of the lab, but also from the interactions that these lab members have with other women and men outside of their laboratory and from the scientific community more generally.
Given this understanding, our program pursues the collection of oral histories with a mind to prosopographic research, that is, as investigations into the common characteristics of historical groups whose individuality can only be understood within the collective identity of the group. Learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective histories reveals much more about the scientific process and its products than any one oral history could do on its own.
Below is a list of projects that the Center for Oral History has pursued or is pursuing. Following each project or collection name is a link to the oral histories that fall into that category.
These oral histories explore comprises oral histories conducted with scientists who devote their research lives to better understanding the complexities of particulate matter in the air, air quality, and emissions as each pertains to climate change.
Explore the history of mass spectrometry—an unsung hero of instrumental analysis—in a new online exhibit.
These oral histories explore the complex interface between innovation, chemistry, it’s related sciences, and engineering. Chemical engineers help find ways to turn the discoveries into commercial processes.
These oral histories document and explore the contributions of chemists, chemical engineers, metallurgists, and materials scientists to the development of modern electronics. This collection is, in part, sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
These oral histories explore the complex realities of innovation, discovery, development, marketing, and management in the chemical industries. Many of the interviewees have been awarded The American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI)'s prestigious Perkin Medal and part of the collection is sponsored by SCI.
These oral histories record the human dimensions related to the growth of mass spectrometry in academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories during the 20th century.
Explore the oral histories of pioneers who got their start in the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
These oral histories document the growth of polymer research in the United States throughout the twentieth century, focusing on World War II and America's Synthetic Rubber Program and the transformation of institutions like DuPont and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
Resources for Education and Action for Community Health in Ambler (REACH Ambler) brings into focus the history of Ambler, Pennsylvania, a town long affected by exposure to asbestos from the former Keasbey and Mattison asbestos plant. The oral histories CHF conducted with local residents, community activists, and EPA officials for this project inform the exhibits, online resources, and related public programs all aimed at fostering an understanding of different perspectives on risk, health, and the environment.
This online exhibit tells the story of the U.S. Synthetic Rubber Program of WWII from the perspective of CHF's oral history interviewees.
These oral histories focus on women and men who contributed to the advancement of the classification, manipulation, dissemination, storage, and retrieval of information and who developed new information systems in the twentieth century, especially those who focused on scientific knowledge.
CHF has been lucky to conduct oral history interviews with many people who discuss their experiences at the Pittcon throughout the years. A number of these interviewees are members of the Pittcon Hall of Fame, past James L. Waters Symposium honorees, or recipients of the Pittcon Heritage Award.
Women have been central to the production of science, medicine, and technology since antiquity, though their role has been—intentionally or not—obscured or missing in the annals of history. The purpose of our Women in Chemistry oral history project is to preserve the history of women’s contributions to science, medicine, and technology in their own words.