Research Guides

Archival Research

Oral Histories - First Person Primary Sources

The Oral History Association defines oral history as:  "[A] field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies."

Personal narratives compliment other types of sources by adding a layer of nuance and individual perspective. Reading transcripts and, especially, listening to the voices of people speaking about their lives and experiences, gives researchers a powerful connection to their subjects. 

Look for collections of oral histories just as you would search for manuscripts and archives.  Search individual databases, large online portals, and the websites of repositories that collect materials in your subject area to find oral histories. 

And also search library catalogs to find published oral histories.  Oral history transcripts are often published as books and you can find them in OneSearch, WorldCat, and other library catalogs.

See the Finding Oral Histories box for search links. 

Oral History Collections - A Few Highlights

The oral history collections listed here are just a sampling of the many resources that are available in libraries and archives around the world.  Also visit the websites of repositories that collect materials in your subject area to find collections. 

Finding Oral Histories

Oral History Association