Angling Oral History Project at Montana State University - by James Thull

Angling Oral History Project at Montana State University

James Thull, Special Collections Librarian, Montana State University

Montana State University Special Collections Library has been working on an Angling Oral History Project that seeks to interview anglers, politicians, artists, authors, and just about anyone else whose work relates to trout and salmon. The project is part of our larger Trout and Salmonid Collection which contains nearly 12,000 printed works and the archival papers of famous anglers like A.K. Best, Bud Lilly, John Gierach, Dave Hughes, and George Grant. We are seeking to preserve the memory of angling in our time in order to capture what we have and what we have lost. To date we have interviewed over 30 participants. Our interviewees are selected based on their relationship to Trout and Salmon with an emphasis on selecting interviewees with a wide variety of expertise in order to paint as full and diverse picture as possible.

We have interviewed the angling artist AD Maddox at her home in Nashville, TN; former Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Nathaniel Reed; author and guide shop owner Charlie Craven; and the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Dan Wenk just to name a few. The project has recently received funding from the Willow Springs Foundation to cover travel expenses and a student intern from our school of film and photography to edit the raw interviews for a three year period.

We ask all interviewees a series of questions like “what do you see as the greatest threat in the next few decades to trout and salmonids?” or “tell us what fishing means to you?” In addition we ask questions aimed the individual’s area of expertise. The interviews are conducted by our special collections librarian, James Thull, using a Canon VIXUA HF G20 digital video camera. While a few interviews have been done in our special collections reading room we typically conduct them outside of the library at the individual’s home or place of business. 

By the end of 2016 we will finish and go live with an online, searchable, open-access, database to house and provide access to the collection. As we further develop the project we will add transcriptions of the videos and use transliteration software so patrons can read in the language of their choosing. The project is ongoing and we have the short-term goal of having 100 interviews conducted by the end of our grant period. We hope to expand the project to include individuals from Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia, and South America in order to offer a truly global in nature perspective of the importance, history, impact, and future of trout and salmonids wherever they exist. For more information on the project please feel free to contact James Thull ( at the Montana State University Library located in Bozeman, Montana.