Charting ROHO's Future
Last year at about this time my old friend and journalism school faculty colleague, University Librarian Tom Leonard, asked me to undertake a study of the Regional Oral History Office, its past and present, and issue recommendations for its future at a time of transition.
Thus began my immersion in a topic that was amazingly rich and intellectually dynamic.
I interviewed numerous leaders of other oral history programs around America, in addition to current and former ROHO staffers, and learned quite quickly how widely admired the Berkeley program was and how deeply beloved it was by people who worked there.
I learned that ROHO, nearing its 60th birthday, was the second oldest oral history program in America, after Columbia, and that its legendary director, Willa Baum, helped establish oral history as a field of research. I listened to many ROHO oral histories, from those compiled of Ansel Adams and Dave Brubeck, to major projects like Kaiser Permanente and Rosie the Riveter. I also learned how widely used ROHO's archives were, judging by the hundreds of re-publication requests the Bancroft's librarians receive each year from researchers seeking to use ROHO's materials.
My recommendations to Tom and Bancroft Library Director Elaine Tennant were simple: Keep ROHO strong, keep its staffers fulfilled and productive in their work, and find ways to gain greater financial support for its mission.
Now, a year later, as ROHO's Interim Director, I'm proud to work with some of the finest oral historians in the land as we chart the future of this extraordinary office. Recently, our staff held a strategy session to discuss our wish list of oral histories to conduct in coming months and years. Names including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Businessman and philanthropist Bernard Osher, and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown were mentioned.
New special projects were suggested, including an oral history of the award-winning extra-solar planet hunters UC Berkeley's Astronomy Department; interviews with the founders and parishioners at San Francisco's legendary Glide Memorial Church; an oral history of political consultants in the Bay Area, such as Clint Reilly, Jack Davis, and Peter Hart; interviews on the subject of the changing media landscape in the Bay Area with Will Hearst, Belva Davis, and Bruce Brugman; and histories of the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association and of Chevron Corp. and its longtime pivotal role in Richmond, to name just a few.
The ideas keep coming, and with it new energy to pursue them. With more than 4,000 oral histories in ROHO's archives, that number will surely grow in the months and years to come, as we continue a sterling legacy nearly six decades in the making. Thanks for joining us on this remarkable journey.
Director, Regional Oral History Office