Oral History

Oral History Resources Sites

Oral History Association
The Oral History Association seeks to bring together all persons interested in oral history and provides both professional guidance and collegial environment for sharing information. It offers an online newsletter, oral history evaluation guidelines, as well as links to oral history collections and centers across the United States. One can purchase the Oral History Review or educator guides via this site. The association also recognizes outstanding achievement in oral history through an awards program.

Oral Histories
This UK website, run by the Oral History Society, provides practical advice on how to start an oral history project.The society offers a journal, conferences, and links to Oral History organizations.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is an outstanding and invaluable site for American history and general studies. The Library of Congress Learning Page provides a “teacher’s eye view” of over 7 million historical documents, photographs, maps, films, and audio recordings. While most exhibitions are text-based, some have extensive audio and video clips, including oral histories. American history teachers should start with American Memory. The bulk of the LOC collections are to be found here. One can browse by topic or search by keyword. All of these exhibitions include guides as to how to work with the collections.

American Rhetoric
This is a massive multimedia site that contains an Online Speech Bank, Rhetorical Figures in Sound, and American Top 100 Speeches. The Online Speech Bank contains 291 active links to 5000+ full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two. Figures in Sound has 200+ short audio clips from well-known speeches, movies, sermons, popular songs, and sensational media events by famous (and infamous) politicians, actors, preachers, athletes, singers, and other noteworthy personalities. You’ll also find significant American political speeches of the 20th century and even Hollywood speeches. Links are arranged alphabetically by first name and checked for errors.

Vincent Voice Library
The G. Robert Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University houses a collection of over 40,000 hours of spoken word recordings, dating back to 1888. The collection includes the voices of over 100,000 persons from all walks of life.

H-Oralhist is a discussion network for scholars and others involved in oral history studies and practice. It is affiliated with the Oral History Association and provides links to oral history projects by subject as well as websites with sound files.

Select Oral History Projects & Lesson Plan Resources
“Telling Their Stories” – Oral History Archive Project of the Urban School
Visit “Telling Their Stories” and read, watch, and listen to perhaps the best student-created oral history project in the country. High School students at the Urban School of San Franciso have produced three impressive oral history interviews featured at this site: Holocaust Survivors and Refugees, World War II Camp Liberators, and Japanese-American Internees. Urban school students conducted, filmed, and transcribed interviews, created hundreds of movie files associated with each transcript, and then posted the full-text, full-video interviews on this public website. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has recognized Urban School’s Telling Their Stories project with a Leading Edge Recognition award for excellence in technology integration. Teachers interested in conducting an oral history project can contact Urban School technology director Howard Levin and should consider attending his summer teacher workshop.

Oral History: American Century Project
The American Century Project is produced by Glen Whitman, author of Dialogue with the Past: Engaging Students and Meeting Standards Through Oral History (AltaMira Press, 2004).
For this projects students interview individuals who helped shape or witnessed events or periods that form the American experience of the 20th century. Interviewees have ranged from war veterans, civil rights activists, politicians, and restaurant waitresses to survivors of the Great Depression and the Holocaust. Whitman provides procedures for guiding students through oral histories and offers an archive of student projects. There are also workshops for educators.

1968: The Whole World Was Watching
1968: The Whole World Was Watching is oral history project created by South Kingstown High School and Brown University’s Scholarly Technology Group. It features recollections of a group of Rhode Islanders regarding pivotal events and issues in 1968 and contains transcripts, audio recordings, and edited stories. The stories include references to the Vietnam War, the struggle for Civil Rights, as well as the Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy

Learning About Immigration Through Oral History
Students compare and contrast the stories of these contemporary immigrants with those researched in the thirties reflected in American Life Histories, 1936-1940 and other American Memory collections. Students engage in visual and information literacy exercises to gain an understanding of how to identify and interpret primary historical sources. From Library of Congress American Memory site.

Been Here So Long: Selections from the WPA American Slave Narratives
These three lessons use the American Slave Narratives gathered between 1936 and 1938 by journalists and other writers employed by the Federal Writers Project, part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). The lessons ask students to explore the slave narratives to gain an understanding of the experiences of African Americans in nineteenth-century America. They are also asked to consider the nature of oral history and personal narratives as historical evidence. From the New Deal Network Web site.

What did you do in the war, Grandma?
What did you do in the war, Grandma? is an Oral History of Rhode Island Women during World War II written by students in the Honors English Program at South Kingstown High School.

Documenting the American South
Documenting the American South (DAS) is an impressive collection of sources by the University of North Carolina on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. DAS supplies teachers, students, and researchers with a wide range of titles they can use for reference, studying, teaching, and research. Currently, DAS includes ten thematic collections of primary sources for the study of southern history, literature, and culture including Oral Histories of the American South, True and Candid Compositions: Antebellum Writings, First-Person Narratives of the American South, and North American Slave Narratives.

Voices from the Dust Bowl (Library of Congress)
This LOC site documents the everyday life of residents in central California in 1940 and 1941. There are audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, related sources, and more.

Riding the Rails (PBS)
Part of PBS’s American Experience television series, this site focuses on the plight of more than a quarter million teenagers living on the road in America. There are “tales from the rails”, as well as Hobo songs, a timeline, a teacher’s guide, recommended resources, and more.

The Great Depression and the 1990’s
By using the American Memory’s American Life Histories, 1936-1940 documents, personal interviews, and the Library of Congress’s on-line legislative information (THOMAS), students will be able to gain a better understanding of why the government takes care of its people and how this type of welfare state started. Armed with this knowledge, they can then evaluate the current need of government programs, such as welfare, Medicare and Social Security, on the federal and state level.

People’s Century (PBS)
The site is based on a 26-episode television series and features oral histories from throughout the century. There is also a teacher’s guide, a timeline, a thematic overview, and RealAudio excerpts. Selected programs:

Studs Terkel: Conversations
Produced by the Chicago Historical Society, this site explores the life and work of Studs Terkel, an important American oral historian. Galleries focus on interviews that Mr. Terkel did for his books and also the site also contains a multimedia interview with him.

Vietnam, Stories Since the War (PBS)
Another well done PBS site; it contains background information on the Vietnam War, first-hand stories of veterans, an index, and a search function.

Cambodian Holocaust
This site relates personal stories from the Cambodian genocide of the Khmer Rouge years. There are photographs and suggested resources.

The Gulf War
This Frontline site offers a comprehensive and engaging history of the Gulf War from the perspective of those who participated. Major categories include Oral Histories, War Stories, and Weapons and Technology and there are maps, a chronology, images, essays, a discussion of Gulf Syndrome, and more.

Go for Broke (Japanese American World War II veterans)
The educational Web site www.GoForBroke.org is one of the leading resources for educators, students, researchers and the general public to learn about the legacy of the Japanese American World War II veterans. It features streaming oral history videos, as well as lesson plans, student activities, glossaries, timelines, photos, interactive maps.

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