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Guide to Oral History Projects at the Pfau Library

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Eric Milenkiewicz
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What is an Oral History?

An oral history interview records personal narratives from people with first-hand knowledge of a topic and/or event, including anything from everyday life experiences to important historical events. These narratives provide first-person documentation of history from ordinary people, often times filling gaps that exist in our shared knowledge by capturing those perspectives that have either been overlooked or underrepresented in the historical record.

According to the Oral History Association (OHA), an oral history interview refers to both the interview process itself and those products generated from this interview including audio and/or video recordings. OHA also speaks to the value of oral histories, where "The value of oral history lies largely in the way it helps to place people’s experiences within a larger social and historical context. The interview becomes a record useful for documenting past events, individual or collective experiences, and understandings of the ways that history is constructed." 

Current Oral History Projects at CSUSB

South Colton Oral History Project

In 2013, CSUSB Dean of the Library César Caballero, the California Humanities Foundation, the Colton Area Museum, and a volunteer research team of retired educators including Henry J. Vásquez, Frank Acosta and Dr. Tom Rivera began the "South Colton Oral History Project." 

The purpose of this oral history project is to produce a historical record of life in South Colton, a 1.3 square-mile ethnically segregated Mexican American community within the city limits of Colton, California, from the period of 1890-1960.

Interviewees are lifeā€long residents of the Colton area whose parents or grandparents settled there and were asked to share their knowledge/perceptions of life in South Colton in the early-mid twentieth century. Select digital recordings and transcriptions can be accessed via CSUSB ScholarWorks (select digital recordings are also publicly available on YouTube).

The Bridges that Carried Us Over Project

The John M. Pfau Library is currently in discussions with the Wilmer Amina Carter Foundation on a collaborative project to preserve and provide access to oral history interviews from "The Bridges that Carried Us Over" project. Select digital recordings and transcriptions can be accessed via CSUSB ScholarWorks (select digital recordings are also publicly available on YouTube).

CSUSB Pfau Library Transcription Guidelines

Oral history interview transcriptions completed by Pfau Library staff follow the parameters outlined in the:

Pfau Library Oral History Interview Transcription Resources:

Volunteer to Transcribe!

Are you interested in volunteering to help transcribe oral history interviews held at the Pfau Library? If so, please email to learn more.