Audio and Oral History Archives
The archives contain recordings on a variety of formats including reel tapes, cassettes, phonograph records, and wire recordings. The content of these recordings includes radio broadcasts, music, political speeches, and legislative sessions. There is also a variety of American Indian and folklife topics within the collections. Some audio collections remain unprocessed, but much of the materials may be found in the online catalog.
Selected audio recordings from the OHS Research Center collection are now online. Listen to oral histories, American Indian materials, audio from the Martha Blaine collection, and more.
Accessing Audio Materials in Research Center
Saturday access to oral histories must be requested by 4 p.m. on Friday. Only select interviews have transcripts, which are available in the online catalog.
The oral histories include approximately three thousand recorded interviews pertaining to a wide range of topics. The interviews date from 1956 to the present. Most of the collection dates from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. The most common formats are cassette, VHS, DVD, and digital files. Recordings in this collection range from twenty minutes to eight hours, with the average being one to two hours.
Collection Guides by Topic
We are working on oral history guides on various topics; additional guides will be added as they become available. All guides are in PDF format.
Living Legends Collection
The Oklahoma Living Legends program was started at Oklahoma Christian College to “preserve the voices of the men and women who pioneered this land of ours.” The collection is an audio archive of interviews and recordings. According to a brochure for the Oklahoma Living Legends, “Generations tomorrow will hear the builders of today explain how the cities were carved from windswept plains. Men and women, merchants, industrialists, oilmen, statesmen, businessmen, and artisans, without whom current history would have been incomplete will speak of an earlier era, the problems that were faced and the courage required to face them.” The collection was later transferred to the Oklahoma Historical Society, where the staff continued to add to it until the early 1980s.
The Living Legends Collection is comprised of approximately 1,700 reel-to-reel tapes; each tape includes multiple interviews. There are an estimated 5,000 interviews in the collection. The interviewees include average citizens, politicians, rodeo riders, astronauts, and television personalities. A brief synopsis is available for most interviews.
Listen to select interviews from this collection on YouTube.
2018.204 Mel Chatman Collection
This collection contains oral histories conducted by Mel Chatman focusing on Black history and the history of Lincoln County, Oklahoma. Most of the collection dates from 1999 to 2005. Included is information on the Ellis family, recordings of a program from the Lincoln County Historical Society, and a recording from Central Baptist Church in Chandler, Oklahoma.
2013.565 George DeLong Collection
George DeLong (pictured below) served on the USS Oklahoma and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. His collection is comprised of interviews DeLong conducted with other survivors as well as a recording of his 70th birthday dinner.
2014.102 Michael J. Hightower Collection
This collection includes audio tapes, transcriptions, and notes from the Oklahoma Bank and Commerce History Project. Michael J. Hightower has authored two books on the history of banking in Oklahoma. While researching for the books, he conducted numerous oral histories and has donated these materials to the OHS. Read interview transcripts and find out more.
Voices of Oklahoma is dedicated to the preservation of the oral history of Oklahoma. Voices and stories of famous Oklahomans and ordinary citizens are captured forever in their own words. Oil and gas, ranching, politics, education, and more are visited in these far-ranging interviews. Voices of Oklahoma has now partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society to ensure these important stories are preserved for future generations. Visit voicesofoklahoma.com to start listening.
Orders and Fees
Users must send a use request in writing or email in advance of the release of product for sale or broadcast. Payment for use fees must be made in advance of publication or offer for resale is made. A "permission to use" letter will be processed and sent after fees are received.
A proper credit line is mandatory. Unless otherwise specified, all materials must be credited as follows: name of oral history source (person), or collection name of audio or video, "courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society." Producers shall furnish the OHS Research Division, without charge, one copy of each video/audio in which OHS is indicated as being their source. Use fee payments are due prior to the time of release.
The OHS does not give exclusive rights to any publisher, author, producer or photographer, and assumes no responsibility for duplication of subjects by others and no responsibilities for claims by third parties.
Audio collection coverage is intended to be broad, general, and balanced, providing an extensive range of genres representing history related to Oklahoma. While the archives may accept select born-digital recordings, we are unable to archive YouTube links. Please contact us before bringing materials to the Research Center. Our staff will need to assess your donation to determine if it is possible to accept the materials.
Contact the Audio and Oral History Archives
- Library of Congress National Jukebox - historical sound recordings online www.loc.gov/jukebox/
- Association for Recorded Sound Collections - a helpful resource for anyone with audio collections www.arsc-audio.org/
- Audio Engineering Society - a useful resource for standards www.aes.org/
- Voices of Oklahoma - features "voices and stories of famous Oklahomans and ordinary citizens." Visitors can listen to numerous interviews on this website. www.voicesofoklahoma.com
- Oklahoma State University - an extensive collection of oral histories. www.library.okstate.edu/oralhistory
- Metropolitan Library System Oklahoma Folklore Collection - includes interviews and audio recordings. cybermarsx.mls.lib.ok.us/folklore/folklore.asp
- Oklahoma National History Day Todd Family Oral History Award - The prize is open to senior division Oklahoma National History Day participants in Oklahoma who conduct an oral history interview with a veteran. Learn more.
Do you have your own audio collection? The Oklahoma Historical Society has some tips for preserving these items, including:
- Give your collections a safe environment:
a. Maintain moderate and stable temperatures for all audio formats. Avoid storing in automobiles, attics, bathrooms, laundry rooms or any other location that could cause damage by humidity or heat.
b. Avoid storing collections in direct sunlight or fluorescent lighting; both will cause fading and damage.
- Store your collections in archival enclosures, folders, boxes, and other containers that will extend their life and protect them from dust and pollution.
- Avoid touching the surface of all media if possible. For even better protection, use white cotton gloves when handling.
For more information visit the Library of Congress collections care page www.loc.gov/preservation/care/record.html.