Noteworthy Oral History Programs

For researchers, students, and those with a general interest in oral history, the the Science History Institute's Center for Oral History staff has created a list of noteworthy oral history programs that focus on areas outside of science. 

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.