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Research Using Special Collections and Archives

This guide provides resources for students, researchers, and instructors who are new to archival research or new to using Special Collections and Archives at the University of Baltimore.

IDIS 101: First Year Seminar

What is Oral History?

Definition: According to the Society of American Archivists' Dictionary of Archives Terminology:
 Oral History is a recording of an individual's history and memories of past events.

  • Oral histories can include audio or video recordings, interview transcripts, and other documentation related to oral history projects.
  • They may be formatted as a recording of an individual's memories or family stories, or they may be formatted as structured interviews between an individual (the interviewee) and an oral historian. The Oral History Association Core Principles defines oral history as the interview process and the final recorded interview produced during an oral history interview.

What Oral History Can Do: Oral histories are primary sources that provide a spoken firsthand account from a participant or witness of a particular event or time period. They are one of the oldest methods of documenting history. Oral history interviews provide us with a unique opportunity to learn about the past from the people who lived it in their own words.

Personal history shared through the documentation of individual papers, artifacts, photographs, or oral history interviews is different than a secondary resource like a textbook or journal article. Oral history interviews are personal recollections of past events and experiences that are unique to the individuals being interviewed. These interviews can help us better understand larger social contexts and individual experiences within them when studying history.

Learn More: 

Oral History Interviews and Identity Class Activity

For your class project, find and access an oral history interview from Special Collections and Archives in order to learn about the personal identity of the individual from the interview, and the historical, societal, and personal contexts in which they lived.

Social Justice and Public Service Announcement Class Activity