Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

SCARC Oral History Program

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)

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 2011, SCARC faculty and staff have conducted over 400 oral history 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 likewise collected dozens more sessions completed by OSU students and faculty as well as 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 1,000 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.

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.

The modern equivalent of the Horner Museum Oral History Collection is the OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 26), which consists of over 330 hours of interviews with OSU alumni, faculty, staff, supporters, and current students. This huge and entirely born-digital undertaking is presented online through a dedicated web portal. Several additional oral history collections, which are itemized below, are also available online.

OSU Oral History Collections Available Online

Dedicated Websites

Other Processed Collections Available Online

Unprocessed Collections Available Online

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.