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Special Collections: Oral History Resources

A guide for planning and creating oral history projects


According to the Oral History Association (OHA), "Oral history refers both to a method of recording and preserving oral testimony and to the product of that process. It begins with an audio or video recording of a first person account made by an interviewer with an interviewee (also referred to as narrator), both of whom have the conscious intention of creating a permanent record to contribute to an understanding of the past. A verbal document, the oral history, results from this process and is preserved and made available in different forms to other users, researchers, and the public." The Penn State University Special Collections Library participates in oral histories in order to capture, preserve and provide access to first person accounts and content that fits the Libraries’ collection development mission. 

Oral Histories are a valuable and unique historical resource.  The content available in a oral history recording is likely to capture information that is not readily available in any other collection or single resources.  By using this guide as a portal to understanding the role of oral histories and the best-practices associated with this field we hope that you will feel inspired to explore oral histories as a way to capture in-depth personal accounts and a reflection on past events.