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Research Programs

Mark Twain Papers and Project
The Oral History Center
The Center for Tebtunis Papyri
Magnes Collection of Jewish Art
and Life

The Oral History Center

The Oral History Center
(formerly the Regional Oral History Office)

As a division of The Bancroft Library, The Oral History Center (formerly the Regional Oral History Office) preserves the history of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the Western United States. By conducting carefully researched, tape-recorded, and transcribed interviews, The Oral History Center creates archival oral histories intended for the widest possible use.

Since its inception in 1954, The Oral History Center has carried out interviews in a variety of major subject areas, including politics and government, law and jurisprudence, arts and letters, business and labor, social and community history, University of California history, natural resources and the environment, and science and technology. Individual interviews have been used as source material for monographs, books, articles, video and film documentaries, and dissertations.

Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of events. The interviews are transcribed, lightly edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees, who are encouraged to augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and corrected transcripts are indexed, printed, and bound with photographs and illustrative materials. Archival copies are placed in The Bancroft Library, with the sponsoring agency, if any, and at UCLA. Copies are made available at cost to other manuscript libraries. The Bancroft Library also houses the original tapes so researchers can gain a sense of the interviewee's voice and intonations.

The Oral History Center's volumes are deposited in more than 700 manuscript libraries worldwide and catalogued on two nationally accessible library data bases, RLIN [Research Libraries Information Network] and OCLC, and on Melvyl and OskiCat, the University of California's online catalogs.

Oral history at The Bancroft Library had its beginnings in the work of the historian of the West for whom the library is named, Hubert Howe Bancroft. Bancroft recognized that missing from his vast collection of books, journals, maps, and manuscripts on western North America were the living memories of many of the participants in the development of California and the West. In the 1860s he launched an ambitious project to interview and create autobiographies of a diverse group of pioneer Westerners and the resulting volumes of "Dictations" continue to provide valuable primary source for historians.

Go to The Oral History Center website


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