The best history is complex, and told using many voices and many perspectives. Historians have a wide range of source types available to them which they can use in their research. Oral Histories are one type of source that a historian might consult as they seek to produce a rich and complex account of the past.
To learn more about what constitutes an oral history and the development of the field of oral history, check out the essay “What Is Oral History?” by Linda Shopes. The essay is part of a larger resource, “History Matters“, a collaboration between the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning of the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, “History Matters” is designed to be a resource for history teachers (at both the high school and college levels), as well as students enrolled in U.S. History survey courses.
Interested in learning more about the process of collecting oral history interviews? Check out the Oral History Associations page of Principles and Best Practices.
If you are interested in the applications of oral history projects outside of the traditional field of history check out Upending the Narrative of the Great Man of History by Eliza Griswold, published in Smithsonian Magazine in December 2013.
Looking to listen to oral histories? Check out this sampling of online oral history collections:
A independently funded, 501(c)(3) organization which launched a large scale oral history collection and preservation project in 2003. Learn more about StoryCorps through their FAQ page, or listen to their online collection of oral histories.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940
This collection of over 2,900 documents, which includes oral histories and transcripts was made possible through the work carried out by the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration / Work Projects Administration. Explore the collection online through the Library of Congress.
Oral Histories of the American South
A collection of 500 oral history interviews about the American South. The 500 interviews available online are part of a larger collection of 4,000 interviews housed at the Southern Historical Collection at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Oral History of the House
This collection focuses on the people, events, institutions, and objects of the ever-evolving House of Representatives of the United States. Learn about the collection and listen to the interviews here.
Oral History Center, Bancroft Library; University of California Berkeley
Want to learn more about the Oral History Center and its collections? Click here. Want to search their collection of oral histories? Check out their search tools (you can either search the collection through a keyword search or use their list of subject areas ).