Forest History Society Oral History Interview Collection
Oral history interviewing is a documentary technique that preserves the cultural heritage of people from all economic and social classes by recording individuals' reminiscences about events that impacted their lives. The sound recordings and their transcriptions produce a rich body of primary resource material that can be a very useful tool for historians, genealogists, anthropologists, and other researchers. Below you will find information on the nature and scope, process, availability and digitization status of the Forest History Society's oral history collection.
Nature and Scope of Oral History Interviews by FHS
The Society's Oral History Interview
Collection includes more than 250 oral history interviews (OHIs) conducted
with individuals involved with the management and use of forests and their
related resources. The sound recordings are in various analog formats,
including reel-to-reel recordings, stenorette tape recordings, and cassette
recordings. Most interviews have at least rough transcriptions in typescript
format. Electronic transcriptions for more recently conducted interviews are
available for research in the Society's library, and
some are accessible from links in our Annotated
Guide to the FHS Oral History Collection.
Subjects discussed in our oral
history interviews broadly pertain to the history of human interaction with
the forested environment. Many people interviewed by the Society in the 1940s
and 1950s were veterans of the forest products industry whose first-hand accounts
of momentous events document critical policy changes that occurred within
the industry in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. As the
boundaries of the field of forest history broadened in the 1960s, 1970s, and
1980s to include the associated fields of conservation and environmental history,
the Society's OHI mission expanded to include projects that recorded the reminiscences
of forestry educators and researchers, conservationists, and employees of
American government agencies charged with managing natural resources. Several interviews
conducted over the last couple of decades relate the contentious political
atmosphere experienced by women who held relatively high positions of leadership
within the United States Forest Service (USFS) or describe the
challenges endured by heads of the USFS and the
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
How Interviews are Conducted
The oral history technique employed
by the Society is essentially the same as that generally accepted and practiced
by other oral history programs in the United States. The subject field and
respondent are carefully selected and researched prior to the interview. The
interviewer then meets the interviewee and establishes a plan for conducting the
interview during several sittings. Hours of tape-recorded question-and-answer
sessions follow. The tapes are transcribed to a rough typescript that is edited
for accuracy by all parties to the interview. Some interviews have been footnoted,
illustrated, and indexed before being copied and bound.
Interviews are copyrighted with the Library of Congress.
Interviews Are Available for Research
All interviews are available for
research in the Society's library, and copies of many can be found in other
libraries' collections. Copies of interview transcriptions are available for
purchase. The Society's Annotated
Guide to the FHS Oral History Collection provides summary information
about each interview; some descriptions include hyperlinks to electronic transcriptions. The interviews are also searchable via the Oral History section of the FHS Research Portal, which provides brief descriptions of oral history interviews conducted by FHS and others.
To requests copies or other information
pertaining to the collection, contact FHS library staff. Mailing address: Oral History Department, Forest History Society, 701 William Vickers Avenue, Durham, NC, 27701.
Telephone: 919-682-9319. No part of
an interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission,
except in the case of brief quotations.
Digitization of Recordings
The Society, with Philadelphia's George Blood, L.P., has completed a test project to digitize a small sample of recordings from its Oral History Interview Collection, including an mp3 of paper industry leader Reuben B. Robertson in 1959 recounting some of his impressions of Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, founder of America's first forestry school at George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This interview with Robertson is included in the Early Forestry Education in North Carolina Oral History Collection.