Oral Histories: UVA in the 20th Century

Housed in Special Collections, the Oral History collection (RG 26-) comprises over 250 individual interviews with persons affiliated in some capacity with The University of Virginia. Administrators, faculty, alumni, staff, faculty wives and children, and businessmen share their stories of life at the university and within the greater community of Charlottesville. These interviews span the entire twentieth century. Many of the interviews were conducted by Charles Moran, Jr., University Historian, as a bicentennial project in the 1970s. The people interviewed share recollections that go back to the early years of the twentieth century and continue to the present.

The development of this digital database began with a Teaching and Technology Initiative Grant, funded by the offices of the Provost and the Vice-President for Information Technology to promote innovative uses of technology in the classroom.

Phyllis Leffler and generations of her students in a history class focused on the history of the university (HIUS 330) have now created this searchable database so that future researchers will have better access to these remarkable interviews. Well over a hundred students heard the voices of those whose lives were shaped by their experiences at The University of Virginia. Undergraduate students analyzed the interviews to determine topics, and to identify time periods, places, organizations, and names. The database is searchable by these categories as well as by a full text search (not including transcripts). Researchers can identify areas of interest for further research, and can then listen to the specific section on the relevant CD, available at the Robertson Media Center.

Researchers interested in using the Oral History collection will not find every interview in this database, and are advised to consult the full records in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. In many cases, full transcripts are available there, as well as additional interviews that have not been coded. In some cases, the audio quality did not permit the coding, and in others, the content seemed less directly related to university history. In a future phase of this project, the Library hopes to be able to provide direct links to audio content.

Search the Oral Histories here.