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A Bigger Voice for Research: Institute for Oral History Becomes Part of University Libraries (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

On June 1, the Libraries welcomed the Institute for Oral History into its organizational structure, greatly expanding the reach and depth of the Libraries’ research and scholarship activities. The move unites the IOH’s pacesetting work in the area of gathering oral history memoirs with the strength and expertise of the Libraries and its team of expert faculty and staff.

“We are pleased that the Institute for Oral History has joined the library family,” said John Wilson, interim dean of University Libraries. “We have collaborated for many years on projects dealing with Waco history and recently worked together on a successful project on our women’s collections. We have always shared a similar mission and look forward to broadening the infrastructure of the Institute and fostering collaboration between our faculty and staff.”

The Institute for Oral History was founded in 1970 by a group of faculty members under the direction of Thomas L. Charlton, then a new assistant professor of history. From its inception, the institute has had a close working relationship with The Texas Collection, the university’s oldest special collections library. Their long-standing alliance paves the way for new collaborations in the future.

“Our new partnership with libraries gives us the opportunity to not only add to our collective body of knowledge on a variety of important topics, but also bring those stories and information to new audiences on campus and beyond,” said Stephen Sloan, director of the Institute for Oral History. “Together, we look forward to fostering diverse learning communities of partners and patrons.”

The institute has been an invaluable resource for several areas of study. As a part of the library system, the institute will continue to record and preserve oral histories and assist scholars with specialized research. In addition to these services, the collection will provide essential information for research in historical topics concerning Baylor University, Texas Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, and Waco and McLennan County.

The partnership also builds on the Libraries’ reputation as a center for training and instruction, as the institute hosts a number of highly-sought-after workshops on how to conduct and record oral history interviews. These workshops are used to create well-trained citizen oral memoirists whose individual efforts to document local stories add to the larger corpus of documented history at the local level.

As the new partnership between the Libraries and the IOH continues to evolve over the coming months and years, the Libraries anticipate a renewed interest in the primary source materials found in the institute’s holdings and is already exploring new ways to put them into the hands of scholars, researchers, and local historians across the state and – via their large presence in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections – around the world.

This story originally appeared in the 2019 Baylor University ITS & Libraries Magazine. To join our mailing list for future editions, email us at university_libraries@baylor.edu.