Digitizing Oral History Projects at the University Archives, Texas State University

Digitizing Oral History Projects at the University Archives, Texas State University

Lindsey D. Waldenberg, Graduate Assistant, Texas State University 

With more than one hundred years’ worth of history to process and preserve, the University Archives (established 2006) at Texas State University has accomplished much in its eleven years of operation. One of the Archives’ most recent projects focuses on digitizing its oral history collections. Consisting of over two hundred interviews that span topics from alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson to Texans’ roles in the early days of NASA, many of these oral histories had remained untouched since their creation ten, fifteen, and even thirty years ago.

In February 2017, the University Archives staff began preparing two specific projects for digital access. The larger of the two, the Texas Sesquicentennial Oral History Project (1985-1986), resulted from undergraduate and graduate oral history courses taught in the university’s history department. As part of the local celebrations commemorating the State of Texas’ 150th anniversary, Texas State University initiated an oral history project focused on documenting the recollections of former students, professors, and community members. These interviews touch on the significant changes experienced by Central Texans in the last half century, revealing a unique perspective on national and global events, such as World War II and the turbulent 1960s.

Similarly, the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) Oral History Project (1987) developed out of a desire to document the Cooperative’s creation and growth, in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. In 1938, eight rural communities in Gonzales County successfully founded GVEC, funded in part by the Rural Electric Administration. Over the next fifty years, the Cooperative dramatically expanded to incorporate more counties and homes, therefore providing rural Texans with first-time access to modern-day luxuries. The GVEC Oral History Project, led by a former university graduate student, consists of interviews with GVEC directors, past staff members, and current cooperative members. The goal of the project is to provide insight into how electricity impacted interviewees’ lives and the growth of local communities.

Thus far, work has included editing and standardizing the two projects’ existing transcripts according to contemporary style guides, digitizing interview audio for online use, and uploading the transcripts into the Albert B. Alkek Library’s Digital Collections, with plans to create webpages to host these interviews and render them easily available to researchers. Along with making these formerly hidden collections accessible in the university library, the Archives will collaborate with the San Marcus Public Library to ensure these collections are available to the entire San Marcos community. Partnering with the public library gives patrons another point of access to learn about aspects of local history. “The university and the town grew up together, and a lot of people have connections to both,” said University Archivist Kris Toma. “You can’t separate local history from university history because they’re so blended together.” The University Archives plans to launch its new online oral history repository in Fall 2017. For more information on the project, please feel free to contact UnivArchives@txstate.edu.