Oral History

WW II Soldier on duty

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Oral History Program

The ALPL Oral History Program is dedicated to preserving the stories and memories of Illinois‘s citizens, not just the famous and prominent among us, but of people from all walks of life. Oral history combines the most ancient way humanity has preserved history—through the spoken word—with modern technology.

Oral history preserves the first-hand accounts of people who have lived eventful lives, giving voice to those who are too often overlooked by traditional historians and recording stories and experiences too rarely preserved.

The ALPL Oral History Program is organized into the projects listed below. Our top priority projects are Illinois Statecraft (IL politics), Agriculture in Illinois, and Veterans Remember, but we believe there is something of interest for everyone. Explore our site and discover for yourself the richness and diversity of our growing collection.

To find out more about a particular interview, visit the Library. Many of our interviews include additional documents, photos, and related materials that are preserved in the oral history archive maintained in the Library’s Audio-Visual Department. For further information, or for making an appointment, call the reference desk at (217) 524-6358.

Library hours are Monday – Friday: 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Oral History Projects

Alphabetical Listing of Interviews

Community Stories

The Community Stories project seeks to offer a glimpse into the unique history of individuals, organizations, businesses and local government that together make up the fabric of communities across Illinois.  This project aims to preserve a community’s way of life during various eras, while also documenting the individuals, circumstances, and resources that so greatly contribute to the essence of a community. What makes some communities thrive while others shrink? How are some able to adapt while others remain unchanged?  What were the challenges and obstacles and how were they overcome? 
 
We urge local historians to partner with the ALPL Oral History program in collecting your own community history.  Join us in preserving your community’s stories, tales of an era and a bygone way of life before these memories are lost forever.

Education is Key

Just as the United States is known as the land of opportunity, it is also understood that education is the key to unlocking an individual’s potential.  The Education is Key oral history project focuses on many of the facets of education in our state, telling a story that continues to evolve in our complex and dynamic society.  This project preserves the history of education in Illinois and studies both the triumphs as well as the many challenges that educators, students, and community leaders face today.

Immigrant Stories

America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is a theme that animates so much of the nation’s history. Stories about the successive waves of immigrants arriving from the four corners of the globe, and about our nation’s struggle to both absorb them as well as adapt to them is a constant thread in our history.  Each immigrant has a unique story to share, born of their experiences in their country of origin, to include an explanation of why they were willing to risk all to come to the United States. Yet there are elements of those stories that they share as well—the hope that propelled them to America in the first place, the apprehensions of arriving in a new land, their struggles to adapt in a fast-paced and dynamic society, of their ability to shape a new life for themselves once here. The goal of this project is to give voice to these immigrants, as each new wave adds to the mosaic that is the United States, enriching us and invigorating us in the process.

People of Faith

  Religion has always been a vital part of the human condition.  We cannot fully understand a society and its culture until we come to terms with that society’s religious beliefs and practices. Often, however, historians tend to overlook the role that religion plays in society, especially in a religiously diverse society such as early 21st Century America. The goal of this project is to fill that gap, to provide a mosaic of the many religions that the people of Illinois practice at the dawn of the new millennium.  

Sport Stories

​Sports do more than entertain us. For many, they provide formative experiences as we come of age, often transforming our lives in ways we only dimly understand. They teach us crucial lessons about life - the importance of teamwork, the value of persistence, and the need to pursue excellence in order to achieve success. Sports provide us with some of our most cherished memories, and gives us invaluable experience in dealing with both the highs and lows of life. This project is dedicated to collecting the stories of Illinois’s rich sports history, and preserving them for future generations.

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Acknowledgments

The oral histories presented here are the result of the hard work, commitment, and generosity of many people and organizations. We are especially thankful for the continuing support of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and the tireless efforts of the Information Technology staff. Dedicated and talented volunteers have unselfishly offered their time and skills in conducting, transcribing, auditing, and editing the interviews. The ALPL Oral History program has been fortunate to receive several grants from public and private institutions. Our granting institutions include the Tawani Foundation of Chicago, Illinois, which supports the Veterans Remember project, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, whose grant supported the Oral History of Illinois Agriculture project. The Springfield African-American History Foundation (SAAHF) transcriptions have been funded in part by an Illinois Humanities Council grant to the SAAHF. We are indebted to Dr. Cullom Davis, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois-Springfield, formerly Sangamon State University. A pioneer in the field of oral history and a former president of the Oral History Association, Davis is a mentor and informal advisor to the program.

Related Collections

Additional oral history collections found in the Library's Audio-Visual Archives:

Adlai E. Stevenson III Christian County Coal Mining Department of Aging Homemaker's Project Italians in Chicago Starved Rock Oral Histories WW II Veteran Histories Available by appointment only: Call: (217)785-7955.

Volunteers

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Resources

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Contact Information

Mark Depue

Having problems with one of our interviews? Do you have suggestions for future interview candidates, or need advice for doing your own interview project? We welcome your comments and suggestions.

Mark DePue
Director of Oral History
ALPLM 112 North 6th Street
Springfield, IL 62701
(217) 558-8949
mark.depue@illinois.gov


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