Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

The SCARC Oral History Program

The SCARC Oral History Program

The Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) is home to one of the more active oral history programs administered by any archive on the West Coast. Since 2010, SCARC faculty and staff have conducted over 500 interviews, in the process creating a body of work that has contributed greatly to the scholarly documentation of past events while also providing useful context on contemporary life at OSU and across the Pacific Northwest.

In that same timespan, the department has collected dozens more sessions completed by OSU students and faculty, as well as by donors external to the university. All of SCARC's more recent interviews have been cataloged alongside several decades' worth of legacy oral history collections that are maintained and preserved by the department. All told, SCARC is the repository for nearly 1,700 oral interviews, the earliest of which was conducted in 1949.

Finding aids for all of SCARC's fully processed oral history collections are available here. These guides are updated regularly as new interviews are completed, and additional guides are being written for collections that are not yet fully processed.

The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project is the largest oral history initiative ever conducted at OSU. From 2013-2017, SCARC faculty, staff and students worked in support of the project's mission "to holistically document the history, impact and ambitions of the university through the recollections of various alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and current students affiliated with OSU." The completed project includes:

  • More than 400 hours of total interview time and over 3.3 million words of transcription. In total, 1.8 terabytes worth of born digital video and audio were collected by the project's oral historians.
  • In excess of 100 interviews with OSU alumni from every decade between the 1930s and present day.
  • Over 100 additional interviews with OSU faculty, both current and emeritus, representing each of OSU's eleven colleges.
  • Another 20 interviews with OSU staff (current and retired) and 10 more with current OSU students (undergraduate and graduate).

The full contents of this unique and valuable resource are keyword searchable and can also be sorted by affilation or theme. Users are also able to download the audio of any of the 276 interviews presented on the web portal.

For many more details, see the OH 150 project page.

OSU Oral History Collections Available Online

Dedicated Project Websites

Processed Collections Linked Through Finding Aids

Unprocessed Collections Available Online

OSU Archives employee Ilona Fry transcribing an oral history interview with a typewriter, ca. 1979.
OSU Archives employee Ilona Fry transcribing an oral history interview with a typewriter, ca. 1979.
University Archives Photographic Collection (P 169). (Click to enlarge)

Oral History at OSU: Past and Present

For many decades, oral history at Oregon State University was primarily conducted and administered by the Horner Museum, which was located on campus from its founding in 1925 to its closure in 1995. The museum oversaw a vibrant oral history initiative that targeted individuals or communities of importance to the university and to the region, and also carried out smaller and more specific projects including, for example, an oral history of the CH2M Hill, Inc. engineering firm, which was founded in Corvallis. Other specific projects that the museum completed included a study of Basque sheepherders in rural Harney County; an examination of the historic Benton County Courthouse; and a survey of the OSU Microbiology Department, which is more than a century old.

While many of these smaller projects have been described as discrete archival collections of their own, the bulk of the museum's oral history output has been organized into the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 10), a massive collection that features more than 400 audiocassettes as well as six cubic feet of paper transcripts and project files. All of the cassettes held in this collection - and in many smaller legacy collections as well - have been migrated to digital format and are available upon request.

With the creation of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center in 2011, the responsibility for oral history activities at OSU moved firmly into the Valley Library. Today, SCARC faculty and staff pursue an ambitious agenda of interviewing and recording, with particular emphasis having thus far been placed on the documentation of university history; multicultural communities of Oregon; hops and brewing in Oregon; and the history of science, particularly as it pertains to the life and work of Linus Pauling.

Get Involved

Further inquiries about the SCARC Oral History Program, including those from OSU students interested in pursuing oral history projects for academic credit, should be directed to Chris Petersen, Senior Faculty Research Assistant in SCARC.