Skip to Main Content

Oral History Program: 66-140 Intersecting Identities in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities


66-140 Intersecting Identities in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities

This page provides resources and information about the oral history process and archival research. It contains links to resources and topics mentioned in class. 


Archives 101

What is an archive? 

An archive is a collection of material collected or created by an individual, group, family, or organization. Archives are often organized according to the creator or the provenance of the material (e.g., the Carnegie Mellon University Archives). Archival collections contain all kinds of material—from administrative records and academic research to photographs, scrapbooks, and multimedia. An Archivist collects, preserves, and provides access to archives. 

Example Collections

Helpful Resources

Oral History 101

What is oral history? 

“Oral History collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. An oral history interview generally consists of a well-prepared interviewer questioning an interviewee and recording their exchange in audio or video format. Recordings of the interview are transcribed, summarized, or indexed and then placed in a library or archives. These interviews may be used for research or excerpted in a publication, radio or video documentary, museum exhibition, dramatization or other form of public presentation. Recordings, transcripts, catalogs, photographs and related documentary materials can also be posted on the Internet. Oral history does not include random taping, such as President Richard Nixon’s surreptitious recording of his White House conversations, nor does it refer to recorded speeches, wiretapping, personal diaries on tape, or other sound recordings that lack the dialogue between interviewer and interviewee.” — Donald Ritchie, Doing Oral History, p.1

Is oral history “real” history?

”Although the term oral history can feel overly stuffy, given storytelling’s revered position in world culture, it serves the useful purpose of signifying a history that exists between and underneath ‘official’ history. The very substance of oral history clearly demonstrates that all of us are participants in history. Our stories don’t need to appear in a textbook or newspaper for us to think of them as historical. Of course, this idea calls into question the nature of history itself. Who decides what is historical?

Oral history can be a powerful reminder that the number of stories that need to be heard is infinite—contrary to the messages we receive from the stingy gatekeepers of history.” — Mayotte and Kiefer, Say It Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling, p. 7

Recommended Readings