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Course & Subject Guides

Oral History Toolkit: A How-To and Resource Guide

This guide serves as a toolkit for students, staff and faculty who intend to create an oral history project or are curious about how to use oral histories as primary resources.

Oral History Resources in the Pittsburgh Area

There are many oral history collections in the Pittsburgh area that may be helpful. Some are available online through Historic Pittsburgh. This collaborative project, which includes the University of Pittsburgh Library System's Archives & Special Collections and many other area repositories, aims to document the history of Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. Oral history resources included on this site are listed here by the institution which holds them.

Chatham University Archives

  • Chatham University CRAFT: Babka and Beyond This flagship project of the Western Pennsylvania Foodways Archive explores in-depth stories about how grains -- from agriculture to bread making and baking -- can contribute to larger themes of identity, community, and social capital. This project encompasses a series of oral history interviews that aim to document a previously undocumented segment of Western Pennsylvania culture and labor.
  • Chatham University Oral History, Neighborhoods and Race Recordings Collection This collection contains recordings created during coursework in HIS 207/307: Oral History, Neighborhoods and Race at Chatham University. The recordings document conversations between Chatham students and interviewees and focusing on the racial dynamics of American cities, especially Pittsburgh, since World War II.

Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center

  • ALCOA Oral History Project The project, which was conducted between 1998 and summer 1999 by oral history consultant Alex Bennett, was a collaborative effort between the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and ALCOA. The interviews record recollections and personal perspectives from 26 former and current employees on a number of aspects on the company’s history: research and development; market research and advertising; manufacturing, labor, work, the community, and government and environmental issues. A particular emphasis is on the transitional period in the company’s history during the late 1980s and 1990s.
  • Audio Tapes of the Pittsburgh Oral History Project The Pittsburgh Oral History Project was the first project started by Dr. John E. Bodnar as chief of the Division of History of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The project, conducted from 1974 to 1978, was a continuation of the Ethnic Culture Survey begun by the PHMC in 1966 to collect, study, and preserve Pennsylvania's traditional cultures. Series have been designated for African-Americans and Slavic Groups.
  • Beneficial Society of North Italy Oral History Collection This collection is comprised of oral history recordings, transcripts, and photographs linked to the Beneficial Society of North Italy and its women’s auxiliary, the Ladies North Italian League. Both of these societies were primarily founded to provide financial benefits to their members in cases of illness, injury, or death. In addition, both societies also served as a social gathering place for northern Italians living in Pittsburgh. Membership to these societies was initially restricted to those of northern Italian descent.
  • Boundless Lives: Italian Americans of Western Pennsylvania Oral Histories  The Boundless Lives: Italian Americans of Western Pennsylvania Oral Histories consist of 75 oral histories and transcripts that were conducted to document the history of prominent Italian American families across Western Pennsylvania. The fruition of these oral histories was the 1999 publication of the Boundless Lives: Italian Americans of Western Pennsylvania book that individually chronicles the histories of 96 Italian American families of Western Pennsylvania.
  • "Grandmothers, Mothers, and Daughters: An Oral History of Ethnicity, Mental Health, and Continuity of Three Generations of Jewish, Italian, and Slavic-American Women," Oral History Collection, 1975-1978. Research Conducted by Corinne Azen Krause   Three groups of twenty-five families of Italian, Jewish, and Slovak ethnicity were chosen to represent the major groups that were a part of the significant immigration to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920. The collection documents and records the oral history of ethnicity, mental health, and continuity of three generations of Jewish, Italian, and Slavic-American Women. The collection includes audiotapes, transcripts for all tapes, a brief preliminary questionnaire for each interviewee, and the final draft of the project report.
  • Shapiro Family Oral History Hymen Shapiro and Sarah Safier were married in Pittsburgh after emigrating from Russia and Austria, respectively. They had three sons, Samuel, Howard, and Jason, who, with their father, opened the Jittterbug Record Mart in 1937. The business was a success for nearly four decades. In 1986, the Shapiro family sold the business. The Shapiro Family Oral History Collection is housed in one archival box. This collection includes 5 tapes of conversations of brothers Howard, Jason, and Samuel Shapiro with Louise Silk, daughter of Howard, and taped by her in 1998.

Monroeville Historical Society

  • Monroeville Historical Society's Photo Archives 
  • Oral History of Monroeville In the mid-1980s The Monroeville Historical Society conducted a series of Oral History Interviews, under the direction of Dan Nowak. Originally produced on audiotape these interviews were transcribed and are now available in two forms. The first is an edited and categorized paper titled "Oral History of Monroeville."