Online Oral History Collections

Online resources or oral history collections. Places to hear and view oral history.

Fascinating Oral Histories Online

Twelve collections of online oral histories, described by Kimberly Powell ( Genealogy). From stories collected by the Federal Writers Projects, to slave narratives, to Japanese internment camps, the holocaust, war stories from the Veterans History Project, A southern cotton mill, and the southern United States, and Voices of Feminism. [via Pennington Research Online]

From Kimberly Powell’s introduction:

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to find your ancestor’s history preserved online, you can learn a lot about them by reading oral histories of their contemporaries - neighbors, people from the same ethnic community, individuals who had similiar experiences (e.g. same Japanese internment camp), etc. There is no better way to understand the history that you came from than through the words of the people who lived it first-hand.

To her list, I’ll add another one, the Big Daddy List of oral history collections, part of a larger collection of first-person narratives: In the First Person—search results for oral history repositories (60 results) and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 04, 2009 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral History Projects
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Nat’l Museum of African American History and Culture

Natl Museum of African American History and Culture - Sojourner Truth NMAAHC launches an online museum before its physical museum is constructed. Sponsored by the Smithsonian, the site hosts online holdings from its own archives and includes a Memory Book where people who to tell their own stories (mostly text-based) and submit images may do so. [via WRT] The virtual museum has lots and lots to explore.

The site makes prominent use of tags. So the Sojourner Truth entry, for example, is tagged women’s rights, abolition, activism, autobiography. The flash-based navigation widget toward the top of the page (or in a larger, separate window) allows you to explore different connections, from moments in history to topics to persons. You can follow threads that connect one to the next. With each click, the navigation widget loads up a new page and redraws new connections.

The virtual museum has ties to StoryCorps. There a page with 45 audio excerpts of StoryCorps Griot interviews. Go. Click. Listen.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 09, 2008 in • Online Oral History CollectionsPersonal HistoryStoryCorps
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Densho Project: Remembering the Japanese Internment

The Densho project is named for the term “to pass on to the next generation,” or to leave a legacy. The Project’s mission is “to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice for all.”

A few highlights of the site:

Sites of shame: A flash site where you can learn more about the different types and locations of internment camps. (link goes to intro page; you click a link on that page to launch Flash app)

They have a learning center with a select sample of interviews from their archives, some of which they just posted to YouTube.

The site has extensive archives; you need to register to get full access. It’s free, and mostly geared toward education, but they want you to read their agreement about the archival materials and understand what you can and cannot do with them. It took about a day for me to receive my username and password from the Densho Project.

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 04, 2007 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral History Projects
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Latino Vet Stories, Day 3

Latino WW2 Vet stories from the Pacific and Italy, in keeping with The War’s third episode, “A Deadly Calling.” Taking Tarawa island in the Pacific and fighting in Italy at Anzio and Monte Cassino, here are some highlights from the US Latinos/Latinas & WWII Oral History Collection.

Joseph Alcoser concentrated on getting a good education, but then volunteered for the service when he was a senior in high school.

“I never thought about returning home,” he said. “I thought we were sent off to die.”

Consequently, Joe did not communicate very much with anyone back home while he was overseas. He sent only one letter to his mother.

“If anything happened to me, my family would find out,” he said.

“The scariest battle for me was the midnight battle at Surigao Straight,” he said. It was dark and we could only see shells flashing by the ship. The unknown was what caused great fear.”

The battle that occurred near Tarawa Island, an island east of New Guinea, had a ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 28, 2007 in • Online Oral History CollectionsVeterans History Project
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Latino WW2 Vets companion stories, Day 2

More companion stories from the Latinos and Latinas & WWII Oral History Project that echo the theme of “last night’s episode” of The War, When the Going Gets Tough. These are stories of the war in North Africa and Italy, and of being shot down from a plane.

Joseph Diaz made it to Naples when Mt. Vesuvius was erupting.

Pvt. Diaz was the only Mexican in his unit, which included Audie Murphy, the most decorated combat soldier in World War II. Mr. Diaz said Murphy admonished the soldiers not to waste ammunition.

Once he landed in Morocco there was no time to travel slowly. His division moved into Tunisia, where fighting subsided, and Pvt. Diaz thought he was heading home.

Unfortunately, there was more fighting to come against Germany’s Gen. Erwin Rommel. By marching or riding on tanks and trucks, Pvt. Diaz quickly moved into Palermo, Italy, where soldiers were rebuilding the area. From Palermo, Pvt. Diaz headed to Naples and reached ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 25, 2007 in • Online Oral History CollectionsVeterans History Project
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Two stories from a Latino WW2 Oral History archive: War in the Pacific

Here are two excerpts from the oral history project that has interviewed Latino World War 2 veterans. A trip through news search engines brings lots of latino response to Ken Burns not-including and then including stories of latinos in The War. I’m less interested in reactions than in the stories themselves. So I’ll dip into one oft-cited oral history archive to find stories that keep with the theme of “last night’s show” for inclusion here.

Today, two stories from the Pacific theatre of war: Bataan death march and being taken prisoner of war by the Japanese.

From the narrative of Philip James Benavides, who served in the Pacific. He was a musician that was part of the Marine Band; he fought on Guadalcanal and Bouganville, and was taken prisoner of war.

Circumstances forced the 9th Marine bandsmen into combat as they headed back to the frontlines to replenish supplies and retrieve the wounded and the dead.

“It was unbelievable. The more we battled,” he said. “I guess you could say you got used to it.”

Hungry and tired, the Marines would eat anything they could scrounge up, including roots and grubworms.

After contracting (and recuperating from) malaria, he went island-hopping again in the Pacific

On Nov. 1, 1943, Staff Sgt. ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 24, 2007 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral History ProjectsVeterans History Project
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Two Companion Web Sites to Ken Burns’s The War

The Veterans History Project’s companion site features stories from its collection about the events described in each episode. Episode 1 covers Pearl Harbor, Bataan Death March, Guadalcanal and Japanese American internment camps. And I’ve linked to it before, the PBS Site for The War… the site got a revamp and facelift. Happy to see a prominent link from the PBS site to the Veterans History Project site.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • LinksOnline Oral History CollectionsOral history in the newsVeterans History Project
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Veterans History Project Medal Controversy: Fraud or Clerical Error?

Veterans History Project buttonThe Veterans History Project’s web sites posts stories from its collection. An independent Medal of Honor watchdog fact-checks the recipients listed on the Project’s web site against the official records. Watchdog finds discrepancies, notifies Project. Vets History Project scrubs the bad records. Investigates. Is this a case of Lie-induced Nausea or Unfortunate Clerical Error?

Test yourself. Quick: Which of these is the true Medal of Honor? the Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal or the Medal of Honor (Air Force)?

This week, MSNBC reported that the Veterans History Project (VHP) took down listings of veterans whose reports receiving the Medal of Honor were false. And here’s the tricky bit. Were those listings fraud? Exaggeration? Error?  Doug Sterner, who operates an independent web site honoring those who have received the Medal of Honor, fact-checked the Veterans History Project‘s site and database and found the errors and reported it to the VHP. The Project notes that many of the false listings are due to clerical errors.

The accusation: “Gross Negligence”

Doug Sterner’s efforts are devoted to debunking false claims to receiving medals—and honoring the known recipients of the medals. He ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 22, 2007 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral history in the newsVeterans History Project
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Oral History OF the silver screen

Archive of American Television: “The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television makes many of its more than 500 video oral history interviews available free online. This site helps you navigate through TV history – as told by those who were there.” Just looking down the sidebar is great. There are several interviews with Julia Child.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 30, 2007 in • Online Oral History Collections
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The Hawaii Nisei Story

The Hawaii Nisei Story is a website that’s a presentation of the oral histories of Americans of Japanese Ancestry. I went to a presentation where Shari Tameshiro, Cybrarian and Webmistress at Kapiolani College, presented the site. The site is a virtual museum exhibit.

There are text transcripts from the interviews, pictures, larger historical context, and video excerpts where you can see the interview.

She showed us the story of Takejiro Higa, born in Hawaii, spent a portion of childhood in Okinawa, then came back to Hawaii when Japan went to war (in order to avoid serving). He then served in the American armed forces doing intelligence. What he went through in his return to Okinawa is amazing.

One day, Takejiro is ordered to report to corps headquarters. There he sees a huge map of the southern half of Okinawa. He freezes as if doused with a bucket of ice water; he realizes the next target is Okinawa.


Then next, he showed me - oh, he asked me, “Where did your grandfather used to live?” So I pointed in the general area of the map. And then he pulled out one big picture ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 21, 2007 in • AfterwardsOnline Oral History Collections
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Houston, we have a memory

Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. This is cool. “Participants include managers, engineers, technicians, doctors, astronauts, and other employees of NASA and aerospace contractors who served in key roles during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle programs.” In addition toh manned (and womanned) space flight, there’s at least one interview that concerns robotic space flight.

This is cool for me, because I attended a shuttle launch in Florida. Just last Friday, I went to a booksigning by Jim Bell, the scientist in charge of the Mars Rovers cameras (Book: Postcards from Mars).

I poked around the site. If you want to browse to see what’s there, here’s an alphabetical list of participants. There are search pages (which I tried first), but I wouldn’t recommend it, as you have to know what you’re looking for in order to look for it. (I searched “Aldrin”—as in Buzz Aldrin—and came up empty)

Cool! In the Herstory section, there’s a link to the transcript of Donna Shirley [pdf], who managed the Mars Pathfinder program. When I attended the Spirit Lands on Mars ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 16, 2007 in • Online Oral History Collections
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Oral History of Technology

In a twist from this site’s theme, the technology of personal oral history, here are some links to collections of oral histories of technology (thanks to some semi-recent discussion of the Oral History mailing list)

Academic institutions. Caltech is in my regional neighborhood. So’s Harvey Mudd. I’m interested in the other big tech institution across the country, MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology), since my Grandmother (and uncle) graduated from there. (If you saw my movie where my Mother talks about her mother, you see old school newspapers from MIT)

Other institutions that might have oral history collections are: RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), Rensselaer,  Georgia Tech, Stanford (see “Silicon Valley” below), Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon. I’m sure there are others.

Women and technology and oral ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 04, 2006 in • Online Oral History Collections
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Katrina Oral History

Stacy Parker Aab has three posts [1] [2] [3] at Huffington Post to describe her oral history project: The Katrina Experience (project home page). The blog entries have excerpts: A 30-year old guy at a shelter. A physician from a New Orleans hospital describing how things changed in an emergency and with no technology. A woman describing how the storm surge flooded the first floor of their home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. A couple discussing having to gut and rebuild their flooded New Orleans home. A roofer describing what it was like in the Ninth Ward during the hurricane and aftermath.

My name is Stacy Parker Aab and I’m a writer here in Houston. For the past year I have interviewed Americans about their Katrina experiences.

We talk about the hurricane and the aftermath. We talk about what it’s been like to survive, and for some, to thrive. We talk about crimes. We talk about epiphanies. We talk about their lives before. We talk about their dreams ahead.

Katrina is not over. Far from it. Therefore, I will keep chronicling the lives of those who survived. I will also talk to people whose role, or calling, is to work with survivors.

Using the Studs Terkel approach, I’ve shaped those interviews into oral history essays. I’ve posted several essays on the project ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 31, 2006 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral history in the news
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Loma Prieta Earthquake Oral History

UC Santa Cruz, near the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, announces publication of oral histories of the quake. Timely in light of the fact that I just read a book on California geology; the book concludes with a description of that quake. Here’s a link to the collection

From the introduction to the online transcripts:

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on the San Andreas Fault shook the Central Coast of California and lasted for fifteen seconds. The epicenter of the quake lay near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, about ten miles northeast of the city of Santa Cruz, deep in the redwoods of Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The focus point was at a depth of ten miles. This earthquake killed sixty-three people and injured 3,757 others, and caused an estimated six billion dollars in property damage. It was the largest earthquake to occur on the San Andreas fault since the great San Francisco earthquake in April ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 25, 2006 in • Online Oral History Collections
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In the first person: Spanish Peaks

There’s a brilliant site out there: In the First Person. It’s a repository of kerjillions hundreds thousands of first-person narratives: Oral histories, memoirs, diaries, letters.

3,350 collections
650,000 pages of full-text by more than 15,000 individuals
pointers to some 3,500 audio and video files
index of 30,000 bibliographic records
and 20,500 months of diary entries
and 63,000 letter entries
and 17,000 oral history entries

Hm. D’ya think there might be anything useful or worthwhile in there?

So I went poking through, looking at the names of collections. Maybe I’ll find some interesting stuff to look at and feature on this site. You know, a kind of regular feature or something.

And then I found this: Spanish Peaks Library District Oral History Interviews. Location: Walsenberg, Colorado. A Gold mine! No, the Spanish Peaks area is not a place where ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 14, 2006 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral History ProjectsPersonal History
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