Oral History Collecting Guidelines

University Archives serves as the institutional memory of Penn State University. We identify, acquire, and maintain archival materials of enduring value—regardless of format—that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community since the University’s founding in 1855. As part of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library (SCL), University Archives aims to make materials available for intellectual discovery, use, and learning that connects the Penn State community, scholars, and the public.

While most of Penn State’s history is documented through administrative records, faculty papers, university publications, photographs, and audio-video recordings, we also seek to preserve the unfiltered experiences of Penn Staters through oral history. According to the Oral History Association, "Oral history refers both to a method of recording and preserving oral testimony and to the product of that process.” The content available in an oral history recording is likely to capture personal accounts and reflections that are not readily available in other primary sources. We conduct oral histories in order to capture, preserve, and provide access to first person accounts and experiences that complement SCL’s Collection Development Plan. Our goal is to use oral histories to promote access to previously un-told historical accounts and to advance a culture of diversity and inclusion at Penn State by recording voices that represent a broader range of experiences. More information about the process of creating oral histories can be found in the Oral History How-to Guide.

Oral history collections in Special Collections are intended to be discoverable online via publicly accessible finding aids, and accessible to all researchers online or onsite in the Reading Room. To support access, oral history interviewees are asked to sign a release form.

The University Archives strive to bring about greater representation and welcome oral histories documenting the experiences of historically underrepresented members of the Penn State community. We recognize this effort to be a professional obligation and ethical imperative.

We are currently seeking oral histories from

  • Black students and alumni, as part of the Penn State Black Alumni oral history collection
  • Latina/o students and alumni, as part of the Penn State Latinx oral history collection
  • International students and alumni, as part of the Penn State International Students oral history collection
  • Penn State veterans, as part of the Penn State Veterans oral history collection

We will also, resources permitting, seek to conduct oral histories with:

  • Penn Staters who have made significant contributions to the university, society, or their respective field(s)
  • Individuals whose papers or records have been selected for acquisition by the University Archives

Requesting an Oral History

If you would like to nominate someone for an oral history, please submit the recommendation form. Please note, oral histories can be time-consuming, and we may not be able to follow through on every nomination.

For additional information or questions, please contact the University Archivist, Ben Goldman, at bmg17@psu.edu.