Oral History Program

Special Collections Research Center Oral History Program

According to the Oral History Association, “Oral history refers to both the interview process and the products that result from a recorded spoken interview...The value of oral history lies largely in the way it helps to place people’s experiences within a larger social and historical context.”

The Special Collections Research Center Oral History Program is housed within the Special Collections Research Center in the University Libraries. It supports the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, the Stock Car Racing Collection, Rare Books & Manuscripts, and University Archives. The program seeks to promote and grow its current collections as well as create and acquire new collections by fostering unique collaborations, partnerships, and educational opportunities with the campus, local, and regional communities and organizations.

The Oral Historian is available for instructional sessions with University courses or individual consultations with faculty, students, and external researchers on a variety of topics. The Program does not lend equipment for interviews but the University Libraries’ Technology Checkout Desk has audio and video recording equipment available for faculty and student use.

Oral History Collections

The Special Collections Research Center houses recordings and/or transcripts of oral history interviews focused primarily on university history, Western North Carolina, and the Appalachian region. Interviews range in date from the mid-1960s to present day and were mostly conducted by faculty, staff, students, and Appalachian scholars. The collections offer a tapestry of the diverse and changing character and perspectives of the university, local communities, and wider Appalachian region.

How and Where to Find Oral Histories

Efforts are underway to make oral histories more discoverable, accessible, and usable by researchers. Interviews may only consist of transcripts or recordings and, depending on the presence and/or contents of the deed of gift and informed consent forms, there may be limitations in usage and access. Researchers should start with the Special Collections Research Center’s Search Tools page for a full list of options and access points or contact Special Collections for assistance. The following information may be useful for locating interviews.

Manuscripts & Archives Collections Database

Oral histories are scattered throughout many collections and Keyword searches of our database may reveal thousands of search results depending on the level of specificity of the search terms. A Subject search using the term “oral histories” will reveal specific collections of various sizes where interviews play a significant role. Visit the database search portal.

The following oral history collections have been digitized and are currently accessible from our website. However, these represent only a small portion of the oral histories in our collections, most of which have not yet been digitized. As more become digitized, this page will be updated to reflect the oral histories available to be streamed from our website.

1972 photo of Charlotte Ross with man seated at microphone

This image from the University Archives shows donor and folklorist Jack Guy seated at a table inside the original Belk Library on February 14, 1972. Standing on the left is Charlotte Ross, librarian of the Appalachian Center and folklorist.

Have a suggestion for an oral history interview?

Interview recommendations are always welcomed! Use our short form to nominate someone (including yourself) whose stories you believe would add value to our collections.

Get in Touch

If you have questions or need assistance, contact Oral Historian, Mark Coltrain, via email, coltrainjm@appstate.edu, or by phone, 828-262-4975.

Digital Collections

Appalachian State University Memory Project

In 2006, Belk Library Archivists Kathy Staley and Pam Mitchem began the Appalachian State University Memory Project to document the physical, economic, social, administrative, and academic development of Appalachian State University and its surrounding community. In 2015 Professor and Librarian Mary Reichel continued the oral histories in order to expand our knowledge of Appalachian State University through the recollections and memories of people who contributed to the daily life of the university.

Appalachian Oral History Project Interviews

In 1973, representatives from Appalachian State University began the process of collecting interviews from Watauga, Avery, Ashe, and Caldwell county citizens to learn about their respective lives and gather stories. The project was known as the “Appalachian Oral History Project,” and developed in a consortium with Alice Lloyd College and Lees Junior College (now Hazard County Community College) both in Kentucky, Emory and Henry College in Virginia, and Appalachian State. Only a selection are available digitally, but over 400 exist in the collection.

Appalachian State University American Military History Course Veterans Oral History Project

Each semester (from 2010 to 2012), the students of the American Military History Course at Appalachian State University conducted interviews with military veterans and record their military experiences in order to create an archive of oral history interviews that are publicly accessible to researchers.