Oral Histories at the University Archives
What Are Oral Histories?
Oral histories are audio or video interviews in which the interviewee gives his/her/their personal recollections of the past. They are an important tool for recording and preserving first-hand accounts of historical events and can often help to fill in the historical record where no other documentation has survived.
For more information on oral histories, check out the Oral History Association's website.
Contact the Duke University Archives
Duke University Archives
at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Oral Histories at the University Archives
Allen Building Takeover Oral History Collection, 1985
The collection includes oral histories conducted by Duke student Don Yannella in 1985 leading to his thesis, Race Relations at Duke University and the Allen Building Takeover. Interviewees include students participating in or observing the Takeover and Duke trustees, faculty, and administrators.
Department of History Records, 1932-[ongoing]
Box 34 contains transcripts from twenty-six oral history interviews held by students with faculty, staff, and students concerning contemporary race relations at Duke University from History 279: Oral History Techniques taught by Dr. Larry Goodwyn. NOTE: Interviews without release forms are restricted; they may be consulted for information only.
Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories, 2015-2016
Oral histories of LGBTQ Duke alumni conducted by students in the Spring 2015 class, LGBTQ+ History and Activism: Duke, Durham, and Beyond. The alumni attended Duke between the mid-1970s and 2000s and describe experiences at and around Duke and Durham, North Carolina from a variety of perspectives and time periods.
Duke University Oral History Program Collection, 1973-1978, 1992
Box 5 includes oral histories with several international Duke students. Oral histories with Duke faculty and staff are included throughout the North Carolina Civil Rights Movement series; interviewees include Robert Osborn and Peter Klopfer, Jake Phelps, Howard Lee, and C. E. Boulware, Duke's first African-American trustee.
R. Wensell Grabarek Papers, 1963-2013
Interviews of former Durham, North Carolina mayor R. Wensell Grabarek, from 2004 to 2013, in which Grabarek details his career and participation in desegregating Durham in the early 1960s.
Rainbow Triangle Oral History Collection, 1997-2006
More than 60 interviews with LGBTQ+ people in the Triangle region, often with connections to Duke or Durham.The majority are audio recordings, with a few video recordings. About half of the interviews include a printed transcript, some of which are incomplete. Many interviews also include completed biographical information sheets, created by the Project and completed by the narrator around the time of the interview.
William E. Whitford Transcript, 1981
Transcript (no recording available) of a conversation between Charles Huestis, Stephen Harward, Diana Gresham, and W. E. Whitford, dated 1981. Whitford discusses his memories of being a student at Duke as well as his almost 40 years as Director of Operations and Maintenance for Duke.
Woman's College Oral History Project, 2003-2006
Nine interviews with alumnae of the Duke University Woman's College conducted by Carolyn Murray Happer from 2003 to 2004. Also includes one recording of alumnae reminisces from the 75th anniversary celebration of the Woman's College Library in 2006.
Individual oral histories may also be found in the records and papers of many Duke administrators, faculty, and staff members. Try searching the Rubenstein Library catalog on "oral history" (limit your results to "University Archives Only") to find more examples.
You'll also find recordings of oral histories with several Black Duke Health staff members here, as part of the Duke Medical Center Archives' research guide, "Black History at Duke Health."
Accessing Duke University Archives Materials
The Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, is the official repository for the historical records of Duke University. Visit our website to learn more about us!
The materials described in this guide may be used in the Rubenstein Library's reading room.
Please note that university administrative records are restricted for 25 years after the date of origin, except with written permission from the office that created the records. Board of Trustees records are restricted for 50 years after the date of origin, except with written permission from the Board of Trustees. Find more information about University Archives access policies.