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Primary Sources: Oral History

This is a research guide to finding primary sources that are accessible through the MSU Duane G. Meyer Library or through the open web.

Oral Histories as Primary Sources

Another form of primary source materials are oral history interviews. Oral histories might give us a person's life story or can address a particular topic. The focus is on their memories and reflections of past events. This can give us access to regional and global events that were not reported in other ways. Researchers should be aware that sometimes the memories are recorded several decades after the original events, but they offer an insight that may be unavailable in other materials.

Oral Histories at Missouri State University

The MSU Libraries has created and collected oral histories on a variety of topics. Many of the histories are transcribed, while some are only available as audio files. To access offline interviews or with any questions about MSU's archival collections, contact Special Collections and Archives by email or at 417.836.5428. For others, follow the links below.

Religious Lives of Ozarks Women (RLOW)

This collection includes women who represent the diversity of faiths in the Ozarks.The project is a product of student work in several REL 370: Women and Religion courses. The students have been enthusiastic about preserving the stories of many of the women who have contributed, formally and informally, to the rich religious heritage of the Ozarks. The collection is scheduled to be fully online by the end of 2020.

Ozarks Lesbian and Gay Archives (OLGA) oral history project

This project preserves the stories of the LGBTQ community in our region. Histories may include full life stories or focus on an event or specific subject. Participants have shared the memories of discrimination, community organizations, life in rural Missouri, and changes they've seen over the years. These oral histories are not yet online, so researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections for more information.

Route 66 oral history collections

The library has placed several oral history collections related to Route 66 online. These include recordings made by volunteers with the Route 66 Association of Missouri, the results of a grant-funded project on trucking on Route 66, and "Birthplace: Greater Route 66 Oral History Project" focusing on the African American experience in Greene County. The video and audio files are on YouTube, with links to full-text transcriptions.

Ozarks Voices oral history project 

The Ozarks Voices project includes a wide range of people with stories to tell. The interviews include local musicians, business owners, authors, and historians. The video and audio files are on YouTube, many with links to full-text transcriptions.

Harry E. Appleby Veterans oral history project

The Harry E. Appleby Veterans Oral History Project is part of the Veterans History Project, initiated and sponsored by the Library of Congress. This nationwide project is an attempt to capture the memories of men and women who served in the U.S. military. Locally there are over 400 interviews from throughout the region. The guide to the collections includes the names of interviewees and gives a link to the interviews available on the Library of Congress's site.

Ozarks Jewish Archives (OJA) oral histories

This collection is a community project that works to preserve the history of the Jewish community. Among the materials is an oral history project with 12 recordings collected in 1992-1993. These are not yet available online, so contact Special Collections for access.


For help with your research, contact:


Anne M. Baker

Head, Special Collections and Archives

Phone: (417) 836-4299




Conducting Oral Histories

Students may want to conduct oral histories as part of their research. If so, they will want to do it in a thoughtful, ethical way that gathers information that is helpful to their research, but also respects the interviewee's time and willingness to share.

Below are guides to conducting oral histories that will help researchers complete a successful interview. We suggest discussing the planned oral histories with your professor before beginning an interview. 

A Practical Guide to Oral History (Southern Oral History Program)

Oral History Project Guidelines (Minnesota Historical Society)

Additional Resources

Guide to Oral History Collections in Missouri

A survey of oral history collections in Missouri was published in 2012. It contains responses from universities, research centers, and museums, as well as information from smaller institutions that might not have online information about their holdings.

Oral History Association

This website has more information on conducting oral histories, as well as links to oral history centers around the country.