Spotlight on Government Information: Oral Histories

Dec 13, 2022

Old vintage reel-to-reel player.Throughout time, people have used storytelling to communicate history, experiences, and crucial information to others. Today many federal government agencies record and collect a variety of oral histories and interviews which offer a unique perspective of past events and current issues to audiences everywhere.

U.S. Congress

Oral history collections by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate provide narratives from staff, family members, and elected officials. Several noteworthy interviews include Chief Clerk, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Ruth Young Watt, siblings George W. Andrews III and Jane Andrews Hinds whose parents were representatives from Alabama, Senator Biden’s Chief of Staff, Edward E. (Ted) Kaufman, and Arva Marie Johnson, the first African-American woman officer on the Capitol Police Force.

Presidential libraries

The Eisenhower, Truman, and Carter Presidential Libraries, among others, provide thousands of interviews and transcripts by key cabinet members, foreign dignitaries, and personal friends. Alan Simpson, a former Wyoming Senator, speaks about his father’s bid for re-election and the various political figures who became family friends in a video interview from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum collection. Peace Corps volunteers returning from overseas assignments represent a small portion of the John F. Kennedy Oral History Collection. Their interviews describe one of a kind experiences about projects, people, and life in remote settings abroad.

Federal agencies

The Census Bureau, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Reserve, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Security Agency have interviewed employees and decision makers. The employees’ insight not only ensures the preservation of institutional memory but also explains how national and international events affected policies and drove adaptations within these organizations.

The United States of America was shaped by diverse groups of people including Native Americans, immigrants, slaves, and military veterans. Men, women, and children faced obstacles and overcame challenges to create the present-day country. Two federal agencies, the National Park Service and the Library of Congress have curated collections giving these distinct voices a place to be heard.

Learn more

Federal government agencies produce and distribute materials in a variety of formats including audio/visual and print. Reference librarians are available at the Wyoming State Library to help you find additional resources from the federal government. Call (307) 777-6333 or email statelibrary@wyo.gov for assistance.

If you have a question about this or any other article, please contact us at statelibrary@wyo.gov

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