Oral History Resources

These resources are meant to assist oral-history programs, other institutions, and researchers hoping to use oral histories as part of their scholarship and programming. In addition, we have provided links that we think are relevant to the practice and study of oral history and a list of texts about various aspects of oral history that we find useful.

Doing Oral History

Below is a link to our Oral History Manual; we have also provided sample copies of our release forms, our usage guidelines, and information about fellowship opportunities within the Center for Oral History and for the use of our collections. Specific questions regarding the entire scope of the oral-history process—from interviewing to creating a finished product—can be directed to our staff. You can learn more about CHF’s oral-history methodology and philosophy here.

  • Oral History Training Seminar (PPT) and Handouts (PDF)
    Our program follows specific guidelines and procedures for conducting, recording, processing, and preserving oral histories and provides details about the equipment we use. This is the general presentation we use for training people in the practice of oral history.

  • Release Forms, including our Preliminary Release Form, Final Release Form, Permission to Post Completed Transcript, and Work for Hire Agreements (PDF)
    The act of conducting an oral history creates a text (visual, audio, or printed) that is copyrighted under U.S. law. We use these release forms in order to ensure that everyone involved in the conduct of an oral history—CHF, the interviewers, and the interviewees—is fully aware of his or her rights with regard to the interview and any products created and used for noncommercial, educational purposes. We strongly encourage all oral historians and oral history programs to create release forms of their own for everyone’s protection (please feel free to model your release forms on ours).

  • Fellowship and Learning Opportunities
    We regularly offer opportunities for researchers to visit us in order to use our collections and to participate in oral history training. We are also active participants in the oral history community and like to let people know about upcoming events.

Links to Other Programs and Organizations

For researchers, students, and those with a general interest in oral history, the CHF Center for Oral History staff has created a list of science-related oral-history programs, other noteworthy oral-history programs that focus on areas outside of science, and relevant historical associations. Clicking on the arrow next to each name will provide a bit more information about the program or organization; an asterisk (*) following a name indicates that the program or organization’s collection is searchable through CHF’s own search engine(s). This list will be updated frequently: suggestions are welcome!

 Science-Related Oral-History Programs/Projects

American West Center of the University of Utah Oral Histories
As its name suggests, the American West Center focuses its efforts on preserving the history of the American West. With help from a number of individuals over the years this center has amassed a tremendous collection of oral histories, some of which pertain to various aspects of science, like their collections on Utah environmentalists, nuclear technology, cold fusion, and the coal and uranium miner interviews.

An Informal Oral History of the American Society for Neurochemistry
Less like oral histories as we think of them and more like transcripts of conference speeches, these documents were part of an American Society for Neurochemistry (ASN) workshop in 2000. The text of each speech is available via a clickable link. The texts mostly deal with ASN, its formation, members, and future, and some big names in the field.

Archives of Women in Science and Engineering Oral History Project, Iowa State University
The Archives of Women in Science and Engineering ongoing Oral History Projects documents the experiences of American women in science and engineering. To date, the collection includes approximately 70 oral-history interviews that span the United States, including botanists, chemists, engineers, entomologists, geologists, and physicists.

British Library Archival Sound Recordings
The British Library has over 42,500 recordings in its collection. Within its wide-ranging oral history archive are a number of collections that may be of interest to historians of science, including the George Ewart Evans collection (documenting “rural life and agricultural work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, folk beliefs about animals, medicine and witchcraft, folk and popular songs” in the United Kingdom) the Oral History of British Science, the History of the Common Cold, and Disability Voices.

Caltech Archives Oral Histories Online
This project consists of oral histories of the prominent members of Caltech’s faculty (scientists, teachers, administrators). There are approximately 170 interviews in the collection.

CGP Community Stories
A project of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies (SUNY Oneonta), this collection documents oral histories of the Central New York region. The history of farming is particularly well documented. Topics covered include agricultural techniques, traditional crafts and skills, technology, and social change.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Oral History Collection
Organized by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Archives, this oral-history collection focuses on the men and women who have worked at or visited CSHL over the years. A number of interviews with prominent researchers contribute to a broad understanding of the past, present, and future of molecular biology.

Computer History Museum Oral Histories Collection
The Computer History Museum conducts oral histories related to the people, circumstances, and events surrounding the formation of the information age.

Computerworld Honors Program—Oral History Archive
The Computerworld Honors Program is one that honors the pioneers and leaders of the computer and information industry. This collection contains a series of brief interviews with leaders of the information-technology revolution.

Conversations in Genetics
Conversations in Genetics is an oral-history project that records the history of modern genetics from the perspectives of the men and women who have been pioneers in this field of study. Begun under the auspices of the Genetics Society of America, this oral-history project is continually expanding its collection in order to preserve an ever-changing history of genetics.

Cornell University Chemistry and Chemical Biology Oral History Project
This brief oral-history project recorded the histories of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology’s most prominent members, namely, Simon Bauer, Don Cooke, Roald Hoffmann, Fred McLafferty, and Harold Scheraga.

Oral History Projects at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has several oral-history projects focused on individuals affiliated with the university and its surrounding area. Most notably, the collections contain materials on Black Women at Virginia Tech and the Department of Biochemistry. This collection is more along the lines of an institutional history than a subject history.

Department of Energy Human Radiation Experiments: Oral Histories
Part of the Department of Energy’s Openness: Human Radiation Experiments program, this collection tells the story of the DOE’s involvement in human radiation experiments during the Cold War. Approximately 30 oral histories are available—including audio and video clips, transcripts of the interviews, and pictures—of scientists and other individuals who help provide context to the history of human radiation experimentation in the United States.

Forest History Society Oral History Interview Collection
This oral-history collection includes more than 250 oral-history interviews conducted with individuals involved with the management and use of forests and their related resources. Subjects discussed in these oral-history interviews broadly pertain to the history of human interaction with the forested environment. Those interviewed include people connected to the forest industry, employees of the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists, and policy makers.

George Mason University Libraries Clarence E. Larson Science and Technology Oral History Collection
An active member of the scientific community, chemist Clarence E. Larson conducted a number of oral-history interviews with other chemists and scientists. The George Mason University Libraries has 49 videotape cassettes (some of which have been converted to DVD) of these interviews.

Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers Oral Histories
Since the 1960s the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers has recorded over 400 oral histories of individuals in the electrical, electronics, and computer fields that are available for researchers around the world. This collection covers various topics, including automation, bioengineering, signals, and transportation.

Iowa State University, Women in Chemistry Oral History Archive
As the name suggests, Iowa State University’s program focuses its activities on collecting the oral histories of women in the chemical sciences and in chemical engineering. The program had conducted 56 oral histories of women who worked in academia and in industry.

Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation/Computer Oral History Collection
The Lemelson Center has a significant number of oral histories that focus on the history of innovation and invention. This collection speaks to a number of subjects, including African American inventors, assistive technologies, food, radio, and robotics.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History
Dedicated to exploring the role that MIT has played in society since World War II, this extensive collection has a significant number of interviews of people affiliated with MIT.

Medical Library Association Oral History Project: Voices of the Past
For 30 years the Medical Library Association has conducted oral histories (mostly within its own ranks) on the history of health-services librarianship and the MLA.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center Oral Histories
The Johnson Space Center’s oral-history program captures the stories of NASA-related individuals involved with the nation’s space programs. Organized around various topics (for example, administrators, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, women who helped get the nation to space, and ballistic missile–development pioneers), this expanding oral-history collection covers the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Shuttle-Mir, and International Space Station missions.

National Air and Space Museum Audio Collections
Included in the archives of the Air and Space Museum are a number of oral-history collections. These oral histories cover a range of topics, including aircraft design, space exploration, astronomy, national security, and much more.

National Library of Medicine
The Archives and Modern Manuscript’s Oral History Collections cover a broad range of topics, people, and institutions from throughout the medical and health sciences. Chiefly from the 1960s to the present, the collections consist of interviews with physicians, scientists, government administrators, medical librarians, and health-business executives. The site contains 107 interviews in two subcollections consisting of over 13,000 pages and 80 hours of audio content.

Nevada Test Site Oral History Project
The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is a comprehensive program dedicated to documenting, preserving, and disseminating the remembered past of persons affiliated with and affected by the Nevada Test Site during the era of Cold War nuclear testing. From September 2003 through January 2008 a wide range of oral-history narrators participated in the project, including national laboratory scientists and engineers; labor trades and support personnel; cabinet-level officials, military personnel, and corporate executives; Native American tribal and spiritual leaders; peace activists and protesters; and Nevada ranchers, families, and communities downwind of the test site.

Niels Bohr Library and Archives Oral History Collection
Part of the American Institute of Physics, the Niels Bohr Library and Archives holds more than a thousand tape-recorded interviews with physicists. Topics covered include quantum physics, modern astrophysics and astronomy, laser science, physicists in industry, science education, and much more.

Oregon Health and Science University Oral History Program
Oregon Health and Science University set out to record a history of the university from the perspectives of the individuals who have worked there over the years and who have seen various trends emerging within and outside of the university. There are roughly 90 interviews in this collection with people from different units of the university.

Personal Histories Project at Cambridge University
The Personal Histories Project is an ongoing, educational, oral-histories research effort spearheaded by Pamela Jane Smith of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University. Each year senior scientists are invited to share their memories and life stories. Through their recollections we better understand 20th-century science and the development of anthropology and archaeology.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Oral and Videohistory Collection
The Videohistory Program at the Smithsonian Institution Archives documents various aspects of science-related oral histories that were initiated by historians working on specific topics. Categories include Black Aviators, Classical Observation Techniques, Conservation of Endangered Species, Development of the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), DNA Sequencing, History of Acuson Ultrasound Machines, History of the Cell Sorter, History of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, Manhattan Project, Medical Imaging, Minicomputers and Microcomputers, Multiple Mirror Telescope, Naval Research Laboratory, New United Motor Manufacturing, Rand Corporation, Robotics, Smallpox Virus Sequencing, Smithsonian Institution Paleontology, Soviet Space Medicine, 20th-Century Small Arms Development, and Waltham Clock Company.

Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College
Among Smith College’s extensive women’s oral-history collections is the Population and Reproductive Health Oral History Project. Addressing the historical period from 1965 to 2005, it includes oral histories of advocates, communication specialists, lawyers, managers, physicians, researchers, social workers, and others connected to the history of reproductive health.

Stanford University’s Silicon Genesis: An Oral History of Semiconductor Technology
Stanford’s project, as its name suggests, is about the history of semiconductor technology in the United States and Europe. There are roughly 70 interviews available in this collection, originally recorded on VHS and in beta format.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Oral Histories
This collection records the reminiscences of FDA members of all levels at the end of their career. Transcripts of these interviews are available at the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine.

University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library Regional Oral History Office
The Regional Oral History Office is a large program that focuses, as it name suggests, on regional oral histories, a significant number of which are related to the history of science. Of particular interest are the oral histories in the Program in Bioscience and Biotechnology Studies, as well as in the AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco, Chemistry and Physics, Engineering, Kaiser Permanente, Medical Physics, Medicine and Public Health, Ophthalmology, and Stem-Cell Research.

University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Oral History Research
The Center for Oral History Research is a well-established oral-history program whose scope is broadly defined to include any aspect of regional history—for example, business, community history, education, Japanese American history, military history, and science and medicine. The center has also participated in a joint project, established in 2001, with Johns Hopkins University on the oral history of human genetics. The project uses an interdisciplinary approach. This collection contains 35 interviews, and the project provides valuable chronological and bibliographical information to support the study of the history of human genetics.

University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Oral History Program
The goal of the UCSF’s School of Medicine oral-history project is to preserve the institution’s history and the role it has played in medical science since World War II through the recollections of its practicing scientists. The program has grouped its oral histories into four basic categories—UCSF Surgery in Postwar Years, Lab of Experimental Oncology, Bioengineering and MRI Archives Project, and Diversity in U.S. Medical Schools Project—with varying numbers of oral histories in each.

University of California, Santa Cruz, Regional Oral History Project
The Regional History Project has been documenting the history of the Central Coast of California and the institutional history of UC Santa Cruz since 1963, through oral history. Their collections include a number of subject areas connected to the history of science, most notably organic and sustainable farming, agriculture, and the history of the Lick Observatory.

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Oral Histories
This completed project collects the oral histories of the men and women involved with University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (from various professions within the scope of medicine and dentistry).

University of Michigan, The Women’s History in Michigan Science and Engineering Project
The University of Michigan has started an oral-history collection that preserves the oral histories of University of Michigan alumnae in the sciences and engineering. Special emphasis is placed on the experiences of women in science and engineering, the physical sciences, and medicine as students at the university.

University of Minnesota Libraries: Charles Babbage Institute Oral Histories
The Charles Babbage Institute has well over 300 oral histories of men and women that are related to the history of computers, software, and networking. Some of their specific projects have focused on the early history of computer-science departments, the rise of the software industry, and the role that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency played in computer history.

 Other Noteworthy Oral History Programs

Baylor University Institute for Oral History
A prominent oral-history program, the Institute for Oral History conducts interviews on subjects related primarily to regional history, such as Philanthropists in Waco, Cameron Park, Mart Black History Project, Baylor University, Religion and Culture, Texas Baptist History, and Texas Economic History. The institute also provides resources for individuals interested in learning about and conducting oral histories.

California State University, Long Beach, Oral History Program
This collection is composed of the various works of faculty members, students, and other nonuniversity researchers. Most of the interviews contained within the collection deal with social, labor, ethnic, and women’s history and are not transcribed.

Columbia University Oral History Research Office
Columbia’s program is the oldest and largest oral-history research program, and it has been a leader in the field for decades. Its members have a substantial amount of oral-history expertise, and they often conduct workshops and seminars and disseminate standardized materials for oral-history research.

Library of Congress’s American Life Histories, Federal Writers’ Project
The Federal Writers’ Project was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration’s attempt to record the life histories of Americans from 1936 to 1940. Although relatively short in length, there are several thousand oral histories in this completed collection that speak to various aspects of American life, including slave narratives.

Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project
The model for many oral-history programs, the Veterans History Project (a product of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center) conducts and collects oral histories of those involved in all major wars of the United States since World War I.

Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky
With well over 8,000 oral histories collected, the program was started in 1973 with the aim of preserving the history of Kentucky and the University of Kentucky through the thoughts and recollections, through the oral histories, of individuals. In addition, the program concentrates on 20th-century Kentucky history with an emphasis on political history, Appalachia, Kentucky writers, and agriculture. Other topics include black history, University of Kentucky history, the history of broadcasting, the history of sports, Kentucky medical history, World War II, and Vietnam.

Louisiana State University Libraries, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
The T. Harry Williams Center documents the history of the university and its surrounding community. Projects in this collection range from Juke Joints and Honkey Tonks to Hurricane Betsy Survivor Stories of the Lower 9, New Orleans, from Frank de Caro Folklife in Louisiana Photography to Americans in Vietnam. The center also provides valuable resources for individuals interested in learning more about oral history.

National Library of Australia Oral History and Folklore
The National Library of Australia’s oral-history collection includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews with and recordings of Australians from all walks of life. The collection consists of around 45,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available. More than 1,000 hours of interviews, music, and accents are added to the collection each year.

National Park Service Oral History Collections
For over half a century the National Park Service has used oral history to expand its knowledge of cultural and natural resources and to share that knowledge with visitors. Over 100 parks have some kind of oral-history collection in their archives. Along with detailing the natural and human history associated with the parks, the NPS oral-history collection documents the history of the Park Service as a whole.

Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center
As part of the Miller Center’s mission to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, the Presidential Oral History Program is systematically and comprehensively debriefing the principal figures in the administrations of presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton, with plans to do the same for future presidents. They also conduct special projects on important topics in political history, including a six-year oral history on the life and career of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Housed at the University of Florida, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is one of the most diverse and widely used oral-history collections in the world. Collections focus on a variety of topics, including local history, African-American history, civil rights, veterans, farming, law, politics, and much more.

Social Security Online Oral Histories
The Social Security oral-history project began in 1995 and is currently active. The project entails an ongoing effort to document the history of Social Security, and especially of the Social Security Administration, by obtaining oral histories from a broad spectrum of participants in the making of this history over the years. The administrative history of the Social Security program and the institutional history of the Social Security Administration are emphasized.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Oral Histories
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s oral-history collection is one of the largest and most diverse resources for Holocaust testimonies in the world. The collection contains over 9,000 audio and video interviews.

University of North Carolina Southern Oral History Program
The Southern Oral History Program is one of the most prolific programs in the United States and has advanced the preservation and use of oral histories in innumerable ways. The program has recorded over 4,000 oral histories related to the history of the American South in the 20th century. And it provides resources for individuals interested in oral history, including a procedures manual and an oral history bibliography.

University of Connecticut Oral History Office
The University of Connecticut’s oral-history program is committed to preserving the history of Connecticut through the reminiscences of individuals. Though Connecticut is the central theme, the Oral History Office has collections that focus on Witnesses to Nuremberg; Voices of World War II; Workers and a Half Century of Technological Change, 1930–1980; Holocaust Survivors; and Political Activities of Fully Enfranchised Women.

University of Hawaii, Manoa Center for Oral History
Since 1976 the Center for Oral History has focused its efforts on Hawaiian history, especially social and ethnic history. The center also provides resources and training for individuals who want to learn more about oral history and its practices.

University of Nevada Oral History Program
Primarily a research and publication center, the University of Nevada program focuses its work on the history of Nevada and the West. The program has a substantial collection of social, ethnic, and political histories related to its subject area.

University of Southern Mississippi Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage
The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has been collecting the histories of Mississippians since 1971, with over 7,000 interviews focusing on the civil-rights movement and veterans’ histories. The center provides educational programming, podcasts, and online exhibits.

University of Wisconsin, Madison, Oral History Program
These oral histories were first focused on the emeritus faculty of the university. But over the years the program expanded to include oral histories with administrators, staff, and students. Some of the 1,000 oral histories were recorded as part of specific projects, such as the Teaching Assistants Strike of 1970, the UW Merger, the Arboretum, printmaking at UW since World War II, the Depression, the return of the GIs after World War II, the protests against the Vietnam War, academic freedom, and gender and race issues.

Vermont Folklife Center Archive
Located at one of the premier centers for the study of folklife in the United States, the Vermont Folklife Center Archive contains the products of the center’s ethnographic research work, as well as materials donated by others conducting ethnographic and oral history research in Vermont and the surrounding region. The archive holds a wealth of folklife materials preserved on an array of media formats, including more than 4,000 audio taped interviews, over 200 video tapes, 15,000 slides and photographs, manuscripts, and other documentation organized into over 100 distinct collections.

 History Organizations

Oral History Association
OHA was established in 1966. It seeks to bring together people interested in oral history as a way of collecting and interpreting human memories to foster knowledge and human dignity. OHA has an international membership and serves a broad and diverse audience. It provides professional guidance and a collegial environment for local historians, librarians and archivists, students, journalists, teachers, and academic scholars from many fields.

Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region
OHMAR is the place to start for those interested in putting together an oral history project, honing interviewing methods, communicating with professional interviewers, or learning the technical skills needed to present and preserve oral history sessions. This regional association brings together experts and neophytes from among the ranks of archivists, historians, journalists, librarians, political scientists, sociologists, and others involved with the process of oral history.

International Oral History Association
IOHA provides a forum for oral historians around the world and a means for cooperation among those concerned with the documentation and interpretation of human experience. IOHA stimulates research that uses the techniques of oral history and promotes the development of standards and principles for the collection and preservation of oral histories. It seeks to foster a better understanding of the democratic nature and value of oral history worldwide.

Oral History in the Digital Age
Oral history is in a profound transition, from an extensive period when sophisticated technology meant using tape cassettes, to a time when the field has moved into the digital, networked, multimedia-rich age. The transition into a digital world, and the flexibility it brings, has changed the costs of doing oral history, standards of practice and scholarship, and the vehicles for access. With this in mind, the Oral History in the Digital Age was created,  a product of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership project and a collaboration among universities, folklife centers, governmental entities, and professional organizations. The site includes information on best practices, resources, discussions, links, and essays.

History of Science Society
HSS is the world’s largest society dedicated to understanding science, technology, medicine, and their interactions with society in a historical context. Over 3,000 individual and institutional members around the world support the society’s mission to foster interest in the history of science and its social and cultural relations.

Society for the History of Technology
SHOT, an interdisciplinary organization, is concerned not only with the history of technological devices and processes but also with technology in history—that is, the relationship of technology to politics, economics, science, the arts, and the organization of production, and with the role it plays in the differentiation of individuals in society. It is also concerned with interpretive flexibility, the conception that beliefs about whether a technology “works” are contingent on the expectations, needs, and ideologies of those who interact with it.

Society for the Social History of Medicine
Since its inaugural meeting in 1970, SSHM has pioneered interdisciplinary approaches to the history of health, welfare, medical science, and practice. Its membership consists of those interested in a variety of disciplines, including history, public health, demography, anthropology, sociology, social administration, and health economics.

Society for Social Studies of Science
4S exists to facilitate communication across conventional boundaries that separate the disciplines and across national boundaries that separate scholars. The society includes scholars in sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, economics, and psychology; areas of study that fall outside of the traditional academic disciplines, such as feminist studies and cultural studies, as well as those addressing science and technology for the public; studies of knowledge, policy, R&D, and the development and use of specific technologies; working scientists and engineers interested in the social aspects of their fields; and members of the public who have an interest in the way that science and technology affect their lives.

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