Oral histories are stories that living individuals tell about their past, or about the past of other people. Gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events is 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.
The Lawrence History Center began conducting oral histories in 1978 using tape recorders. Our collection currently includes approximately 700 audio tapes that have now been digitally mastered, some with eyewitness accounts going as far back as the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. Interviews cover a variety of subjects (e.g., military services, immigration, schools, churches, neighborhoods, labor, clubs & organizations, social services, family and civic life, and urban renewal).
Access to our Oral History Collection
We hope to have the entire existing collection available to researchers online (searchable by name and subject area) soon. Until then, to listen to and/or read a transcription of one of our oral histories, please contact Amita Kiley.
In an effort grow our oral history collection, we plan to expand efforts to obtain oral and video history through community partnerships. For example, the blog "We, the People: Voices of the Immigrant City" is the result of a complex but vibrant collaboration between youths and adults who are committed to community development and to the idea that there one, single story does not define a place. More about "We, the People: Voices of the Immigrant City"