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Oral History Research and Resources

What is Oral History?

"Oral history" refers to the collection and study of historical events using audio and video recordings of interviews with people who have personal knowledge and recollections of these events. These interviews are a dialogue between the interviewee (sometimes called the narrator) and a well-prepared interviewer, and are an important part of the historical record as primary sources. Recorded interviews are transcribed, indexed, and preserved in a library or archive for future researchers. Oral histories are used in conjunction with other primary sources, such as archival materials and newspapers, and secondary sources.

Founded in 1966, the Oral History Association is the primary organization for oral history in the United States, and provides information on guidelines, standards, best practices, and preservation. The OHA defines oral history as "a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies."

How Do I Find Oral Histories?

Use Spoke, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History collection catalog, to find, listen to, and request copies of oral histories from the SCRC.  You can follow links to interviews or projects that are available online or request interviews that are not yet online via your research services account.


Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History


The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky is recognized around the world as a leader and innovator in the collection and preservation of oral histories.  The more than 14,000 oral history interviews in our collection provide a unique look into Kentucky, American, and global histories and represent a valuable resource for researchers.  The Nunn Center recorded its first interview in 1973, and the collection focuses on 20th century Kentucky history; Appalachia; agriculture; African American history; the history of education, politics, and public policy; the arts; Kentucky writers; gender; diversity; the Civil Rights Movement; veterans; the University of Kentucky; healthcare; and industries such as the coal, equine, and bourbon industries.

How to Request Oral Histories, Step by Step

  1. Go to each record, for example:
  2. Click on the blue “Rights and Request” tab for each record. 
  3. Click on “Add Interview to Cart” for each interview.
  4. A white “Cart” should appear in the top right corner of the website.  Click on the cart. 
  5. Confirm that your interviews were added to the cart.
  6. Click on “Proceed to Checkout.”
  7. Accept the “Terms of Use” (green button).
  8. Put in basic request details.  Make a selection in the dropdown for “Intended use”. Give us a brief description of your project.
  9. Click “Submit.”
  10. You then are prompted to create an account in our request system.