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Oral History

A guide to oral history resources at the Southwest Collection and beyond.

Recording the Southwest Collection's Oral Histories

The offices of the oral history program are located on the third floor of the Southwest Collection. In the fall of 2022, at the top of the staircase, a small exhibit case was installed, telling a brief history of recording the interviews of the Southwest Collection through the media itself. The case includes open reel tape, audio cassettes, and images of our digital recorders, along with photos of interviews being done through the years. Below is the text of the exhibit.

Exhibit Overview

Reel to Reel

Portable audio recording devices like wire recorders, SoundScriber discs, and reel to reel tape machines in the 1940s and 1950s enabled the advent of the oral history discipline. Though the Southwest Collection has oral history holdings dating back to 1946, the first concerted interviews conducted by archive staff were done in the summer of 1956 by Seymour V. Connor and featured Lubbock county pioneer families like Monroe and Molly Abernathy, Percy Ralls, and Walter S. Posey. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the Southwest Collection recorded interviews to small 3” open reel tapes, with a speed of 1 7/8” IPS in mono format as to record the longest interview possible. If interviews lasted longer than one hour, multiple reels were used.

Audio Cassette

Audio cassettes became popular in the 1970s, and the Southwest Collection began recording to cassettes in the mid-1970s. These tapes were typically sixty minutes in length, and the equipment was easier to transport and set up than the open reel tapes and their players. Cassettes became the standard format for most oral history programs between the 1970s and early 2000s.

Born Digital

Various digital audio formats emerged in the 1990s, including CDs, minidiscs, and DAT tapes. The Southwest Collection recorded on minidiscs and audio cassettes in the late 1990s, before switching to born digital audio recorders in the mid2000s. Portable recorders like these Edirol, Roland, and Zoom models allow for longer recording times, unencumbered by physical media length restrictions. Further, their built-in microphones enable higher quality recordings to be produced. Today our oral historians use the Tascam DDR-100MKII Linear PCM Recorder, recording at 96 kHz, 24 bit WAV files.

In 2013, the Southwest Collection began a project to digitize all analog oral history recordings, as to have digital backup copies, gold archival disc copies, and patron use CDs. This project was completed in 2018. If anyone wishes to access oral histories in our reading room, CD copies are available for immediate use.

Additional Resources

Thank you so much for your interest in our archive! We highly encourage you to explore this libguide for further information on the Southwest Collection's oral history program.

  • For information on accessing our oral history recordings, please click "SWC/SCL Oral History Collection Information."
    • Available interview transcripts are found here.
    • Searching our wider holdings can be done so through our wiki
  • For information on conducting interview generally, click on "How to Oral History."
  • If you are interested in creating a community partnership to help preserve the history of your organization or town, click here.
  • Finally, if you know someone who needs to be interviewed and a part of our archive, feel free to contact the oral history archivist. Contact information can be found on the left side of this page.