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Oral Histories

Selected Primary Resources

ENGL 110-087 | Prof. Darlene Farabee | English Department

for reference assistance email Special Collections

or contact:
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229


Two of the manuscript/archival collections listed below represent oral history projects: the Delaware Oral Histories and the Holocaust Testimonies Project. Both of these were undertaken to collect personal accounts and narratives related to specific topics -- the personal histories of Delawareans and the individual experiences of survivors and liberators of the Holocaust, a significant 20th century historical event.

The Neala Schleuning Meridel LeSueur papers and the Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno papers related to Paul Bowles represent two manuscript collections of primary research materials generated in the process of two authors' books -- both collections include recorded interviews with multiple participants. The collected tapes become recorded documentary evidence related to a single theme.

The Miscellaneous Delaware tapes include several recordings made in the tradition of folklorists' field recordings. The Delaware Folklore Society Bulletin explains some of these recordings, and the result is similar to the published The Grandfathers speak: native American folk tales of the Lenape people, in which literature emerges from an oral tradition.

The two transcripts of Delaware politicians John Williams and Allen Frear were generated for a documentary project conducted by the Association of Former Members of Congress. Comparison of the two transcripts is a useful excercise for reviewing the quality of the interviews and considering the role of the interviewer, and the importance of familiarity with the subject and preparedness for the interview.

The Internet sources serve as a gateway to just a few of the many scholarly and grass roots oral history programs. The Library of Congress Folklife Center is the home of the WPA-era field recordings of oral and musical Americana. They are currently coordinating a new national iniative to record veterans' histories.

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Manuscripts and Archival Collections

In addition to finding aids, Special Collections maintains several inhouse lists of literary and historical manuscripts. For assistance of any kind, please contact a Librarian in Special Collections.

MSS 179 Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware Oral History Collection, 1966 - 1978; 294 tapes, 188 transcripts.

A project of the History Department of the University of Delaware which was conducted between 1966 and 1978. Two hundred and ninety-four tapes were produced, and 188 of these were transcribed. Contracted interviewers from the History Department interviewed a variety of Delawareans, but seemed particularly interested in documenting the following subjects: educators, immigrants, journalism, politics, the University of Delaware, Delaware in the Depression, and the 1950s relocation of Long Island and New Jersey potato farmers to Delaware.

Holocaust Testimonies Project. Halina Wind Preston Holocaust Education Committee of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, 1989-1995; 24 interviews on 25 VHS videocassettes

Part of a project coordinated with the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University. The inhouse finding aid at the University of Delaware Library includes interview summary sheets. Participants include survivors and liberators.

MSS 488 Neala Schleuning Meridel Le Sueur Collection, 1930 - 1997; 2.3 linear ft. and 43 audio cassettes, 10 reel to reel tapes, and 2 VHS videotapes

The collection includes tapes and transcripts created and collected by Schleuning in the research process of her dissertation and later projects related to the well known American author Meridel Le Sueur. The content of the tapes cover Le Sueur’s thoughts on her writing, the culture of rural America, the feminist and socialist movements in America, and the history of social activism from the 1930s-1970s.

MSS 165 Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno Papers Related to Paul Bowles, 1946- 1989 (bulk dates 1985-1989); 2.3 linear ft.

In the course of his research for a biography of Paul Bowles, Sawyer-Lauçanno interviewed numerous friends and colleagues of the author, as well as Bowles himself. The collection includes tapes and transcripts.

Miscellaneous Delaware tapes

Tapes from this collection are unprocessed and not yet reformatted. Several appear to have been recorded by members of the Delaware Folklore Society, including "yarns related by Fan (or Nathaniel) Tingle of Indian River Hundred in Sussex County."

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Selected Printed Sources

Beers, D. G. (Daniel G.)

Atlas of the State of Delaware : from actual surveys / by and under the direction of D.G. Beers. Philadelphia : Pomeroy & Beers, 1868, c1867 (Philadelphia : F. Bourquin).

LOCATION: Special Collections Delaware FOLIO+ G1265 .B44x 1868

Delaware folklore bulletin. Newark : Institute of Delaware History and Culture, University of Delaware, 1951- . Vol. 1, no. 3, October 1952.

LOCATION: Special Collections Delaware GR110 .D3 D45

Frear, J. Allen.

Oral history interview with J. Allen Frear, Jr., Senator from Delaware, 1949 to 1961 / recorded by Charles T. Morrissey for Former Members of Congress, Inc. as part of its project: The Modern Congress in American History, May 12, 1979. [ Washington, D.C. : Former Members of Congress], 1979. (31 pp.)

LOCATION: Special Collections Delaware folio E840.8 .F743 M67 1979

Williams, John J. (John James), 1904-1988.

Oral history interview with John J. Williams, Senator from Delaware,1947 to 1971 / recorded by Charles T. Morrissey for Former Members of Congress, Inc. as part of its project: The Modern Congress in American History, May 12, 1979. Washington, D.C. : Former Members of Congress, c1981. (66 pp.)

LOCATION: Special Collections Delaware folio E840.8 .W54 M67x 1981


The grandfathers speak : native American folk tales of the Lenapé people / collected and written by Hìtakonanu'laxk (Tree Beard). New York : Interlink Books, 1994.

LOCATION: Special Collections Delaware E 99 .D2 H73 1994

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Selected Internet Sources

Southern Folklife Collection. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The SFC contains over 160,000 sound recordings, including cylinders, acetate discs, wire recordings, 78 rpm and 45 rpm discs, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and open reel tapes. Moving image materials include over 3,000 video recordings and 18 million feet of motion picture film. Other materials include thousands of photographs, song folios, posters, manuscript materials, ephemeral items, and research files, as well as an exceptionally strong collection of discographical materials for the 78 rpm era.

Online Archive of California
This digital collection drawn from multiple California repositories includes many transcripts from oral history collections documenting diverse groups, such as Japanese Americans confined to relocation camps during World War II or Black alumni of the UC system.

Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.
Sample pages from

Story Corps
Championing the stories of the "anonymous, uncelebrated" lives of individuals who have built this country, parent company Sound Portraits Productions has modeled StoryCorps after the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s, through which oral-history interviews with everyday Americans across the country were recorded. Their goal is to build soundproof recording booths across the country, called StoryBooths, in which individuals record broadcast-quality interviews with the help of a trained facilitator. The first StoryBooths opened in New York City's Grand Central Terminal on October 23, 2003, with oral historian Studs Terkel delivering the opening remarks.

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