Oral History

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

Agriculture in Illinois

Agriculture is central to the story of Illinois. From Illinois‘s earliest settlement to the present, agriculture was and still is the state's most important enterprise. You’ll find a large and diverse collection of interviews here, capturing both farming in a bygone era and agriculture as it is practiced today.

Illinois Statecraft

The story of Illinois politics is not only colorful but also essential to our understanding of Illinois and its place in the nation and the world today. This project focuses not just on Illinois’s politicians but also on journalists, lobbyists, jurists, political aides, friends, relatives and political opponents, in other words, those behind the headlines as well as those who find themselves in them. This project focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the state and local political scene. And while interviewees sometimes discuss the Chicago political scene, we leave the primary responsibility for that subject to Chicago institutions.  There's plenty in this collection that will enlighten the serious student or catch the attention of those fascinated by Illinois politics.

Veterans Remember

This project honors our nation's veterans, as well as those who stayed behind. It is organized by war and includes collections for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Gulf War, and the War on Terror.

African American Chronicles

Illinois African-Americans often have important Civil Rights stories to preserve, but their experiences encompass so much more. They also share stories about the strength of families, or of cherished institutions, or their own personal struggles and experiences. This project provides a place to preserve the vibrant voices of African-Americans from all walks of life.

Architectural Gems

Historic homes and buildings often have their own stories to tell, stories that are central to the history of Illinois. This project preserves those stories, told by those who know their secrets well. Whether it be a prominent state building or a private home of a not so private person, the memories of these buildings and of those who lived there are part of the fabric of Illinois’ history.

Community Stories

The Community Stories project seeks to offer a glimpse into the unique history of individuals, organizations, businesses, and local governments that together make up the fabric of communities across Illinois. Contact us if you’re interested in featuring your own community’s story to our collection.

Education is Key

The Education is Key project tells the story of education in Illinois that continues to evolve in our complex and dynamic society. This project studies both the triumphs as well as the many challenges that educators, students, and community leaders face today.

Family Memories

The Family Memories collection is an eclectic mixture of interviews with people who have made special contributions to their families and communities, and who have a compelling story to tell us about their experiences.

Historians Speak

The Historians Speak project is a collection of interviews conducted by professional historians with other historians who have spent their lives thinking, teaching, and writing about Illinois and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. It is the most academic of our projects and focuses especially on the narrators' historiographical journey, their contributions to current scholarship, and the struggles and successes of their careers.

Immigrant Stories

America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is a theme that animates much of Illinois’s history as well. This project gives voice to many of our recent immigrants, as each new wave adds to the mosaic that is the United States, enriching us and invigorating us in the process

Organizations and Agencies

Every institution has a history, a story of its creation, how it has managed change over time, visionary leaders, and office intrigues. Oral histories are an ideal way for state agencies, private not-for-profits, and other organizations to record their stories for posterity. These institutions are, after all, part of the fabric of our daily lives, worth preserving for future generations.

People of Faith

The People of Faith project preserves the stories and spiritual journeys of Illinoisans from the wide variety of religious faiths and callings as practiced in the early 21st Century

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. This project is dedicated to collecting the stories of Illinois’s rich sports history and preserving them for future generations.

Go to Educator Resources

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.

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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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