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Department of History, Oral History Office records

 Collection
Identifier: A021

Scope and Content Note

The Oral History Collection consists of material pertaining to oral history projects that Wayne Anderson and his students conducted under the auspices of the Northeastern University Department of History from 1977 to 1991.  The collection contains audiotapes, transcripts, legal release forms, collateral materials pertaining to interviews, course materials, lecture notes, photographs, and correspondence with other professors of oral history.

Description of Projects:

The American China Mission Project chronicles Wayne Anderson's involvement with  Episcopalian missionaries who traveled throughout China between 1917 and 1950.  Of significance are the interviews with the group's leaders, the Reverend Leslie and Mary Fairfield.  The Mission introduced churches, schools, and medical facilities to impoverished communities in China and trained individuals to manage these institutions independently.  The narrators discuss their reasons for joining the missionary, their experiences in China, their religious beliefs, and their relations with the Chinese people.

The American Gay Community Project contains one interview conducted shortly before the oral history program was discontinued.  The narrator discusses his experiences as a young African-American man coming to terms with his sexuality.  Other topics include religion, the Harvard Divinity School, Princeton University, the Ku Klux Klan, African-American culture in the late 1970s and 1980s, and rural and suburban gay communities.

The Apartheid Project also contains only one interview conducted shortly before the program was discontinued.  Daniel Gouws, the narrator, was a Northeastern Student at the time of the interview.  Over the course of the interview, he addresses the issues surrounding his life in South Africa as a middle-class, Caucasian male involved in protest and anti-apartheid activities, as well as his involvement in the military.

The Cambridge School Crisis Project recounts the incident of a fatal stabbing at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 1980.  Interviewers spoke with representatives from the Cambridge School Committee, school administrators, teachers, staff, and parents.  Much of the discussion regarding the incident debated whether the incident was racially motivated as the victim was Caucasian and the assaulter was African-American.  The interviews were intended to be used in a study that employed the use of case study methodology in the analysis of reactions to a crisis situation.

Immigrant Voyages chronicles the life experiences of twentieth-century immigrants who chose to settle in  America.  It offers accounts of the narrators' lives in their native countries, reasons for leaving, and reflections of life in America.  Representative countries include Austria, England, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Sweden, Poland, and Russia.

The Lynn Shoe Industry Project preserves the history of a once-thriving industrial city.  In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Lynn, Massachusetts, emerged as a vital one-industry city.  The shoe business single-handedly stimulated economic, social, and political development within the community.  It also employed thousands of immigrant workers, advanced the causes of union interests, and fostered a unique spirit of community.  This project explores the social significance of the shoe industry on Lynn and its remarkable rise and rapid fall.  Topics of discussion include labor unions, immigration, industrialization, ethnicity, urbanization, and working-class life.

The two interviews in the Massachusetts Port Authority Project detail the early years of this organization which owns and operates Logan International Airport, the Tobin Bridge, Hanscom Field, the public marine terminals of the Port of Boston, and numerous other city development and maritime properties.

The narrators in the Merchant Marine Project describes life in the British and American merchant marine organizations.  Narrators discuss types of ships they worked on, crew relations, technology, and the Cunard and White Star Steamship companies.

The many narrators who participated in the New England Fishermen Project discuss their life-long involvement in a traditional New England occupation.  Topics include trawling, camaraderie, the Great Depression, economics, fishing out of Boston and surrounding ports, and problems facing fishermen in the 1980s.

The Professions and Society Project was conducted with the expectation that Northeastern University students would be able to utilize the interviews as a resource in guiding their own career decisions.  This project did not progress as it fell close to Anderson's death and the demise of the program.  Narrators discuss involvement in the Peace Corps, employment with the New England Telephone Company, a career in journalism, and life as a working mother.  The last interview is narrated by Ruth Ann Harris, a house wife and mother who returned to school to receive her college degree; eventually she became a professor at Northeastern University and director of the Irish Studies Program.

The Schwamb Mill Project was commissioned by the Schwamb Mill Preservation Trust under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve the history of one of the country's first woodworking mills located in Arlington, Massachusetts.  One of the interviews is with the mill's owner, Elmer Schwamb.

The Shakers Project consists of one interview with one of the country's last living members of this religious community.  The narrator discusses religion, Shaker principles, furniture making, and life in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Of particular interest to scholars studying the history of Northeastern University is "The Sixties" project, which contains interviews with ten alumni who attended the university at that time.  Topics include the Vietnam War, abortion, the women's movement, campus life at Northeastern University, Kent State University, politics, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the National Student Strike, the National Organization of Women, music, and civil rights.

The Town Histories Project is comprised of a series of interviews with residents from several Massachusetts communities including Cape Ann, Lincoln, Newton, and Winchester.  There is also one interview with a woman who recalls her childhood in Meriden, Kansas.  Topics covered in this group of interviews include small-town life, the automobile, urbanization, the growth of the suburbs, farming, immigration, and family life.

In the Transportation Project narrators discuss the impact of various forms of transportation on the twentieth century world.  Topics include ship travel, the first automobiles, Amish buggies, steamboats, and the transition from transportation by horse-powered vehicles to automobiles and trains

Finally, the Vietnam War, World War I, and World War II Projects consists of interviews with veterans of three pivotal wars of the twentieth century.  Topics include enlistment, basic training, combat experiences, injury, death, armistice, the Bonus March, readjusting to civilian life, European armies, Hitler, concentration camps, the 10th Mountain Division (a World War II ski corp), and chemical warfare.  Charles Armour, an alumnus of the Northeastern University School of Law, was interviewed regarding his experiences in World War I.

Dates

  • 1976-1994

Creator

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.
All audio-cassettes need to be reviewed by the Collections Archivist before access is granted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Wayne Anderson, a lecturer in the history department at Northeastern University, introduced the oral history program as an independent study course at the graduate level in 1977.  Anderson's areas of historical study were twentieth century passenger shipping and maritime history; he began interviewing people involved in these ventures as a personal project. This led him to recognize the value of preserving history through the oral interview and prompted him to offer oral history as an independent study.  In 1979 the first undergraduate oral history course was offered.  Courses on both the undergraduate and graduate levels included discussion of the theory and practice of interviewing and analysis of the value of interviews as historical evidence.  As director of the Oral History Program, Anderson's responsibilities included developing, implementing, and managing interviewing projects; editing transcripts; supervising research; preparing users' guides for the interviews; and caring for the tape collection.

From 1977 to 1990, Anderson and his students participated in a variety of oral history projects.  Projects generally focused on themes of regional interest.  For example, between 1978 and 1990, projects included interviews with Massachusetts residents regarding the following topics:  a race-related shooting within a Cambridge public school, the lives of New England Fishermen, experiences of Episcopal Missionaries in China, histories recounted by twentieth-century immigrants to America, descriptions of work in the Lynn shoe industry, and interviews with World War I and II veterans.  Anderson also undertook several projects that were not directly affiliated with Northeastern.  He worked with several Massachusetts organizations and communities including the Cape Ann Historical Association, the Lincoln Historical Society, the Newton Free Library, and the Winchester Archival Center.  Anderson and his students hoped to collaborate on large projects to produce comprehensive sets of oral history interviews; however, some students elected to do unrelated projects, so the collection also includes several groupings of interviews with only one or two narrators for a given topic.

While the program enjoyed popularity for a few years, it was not strong enough to sustain itself within the history department.  Anderson's death in 1991 also contributed to the demise of the program.  Currently, though, oral history is included in a public history course.

Extent

7.5 cubic feet (33 containers)

Overview

Wayne Anderson, a lecturer in the Northeastern University Department of History, introduced the oral history program as an independent study course at the graduate level in 1977. From 1977 to 1990, Anderson and his students participated in a variety of oral history projects, which generally focused on themes of regional interest. For example, between 1978 and 1990, projects included interviews with Massachusetts residents regarding the following topics: a race-related shooting within a Cambridge public school, the lives of New England fishermen, experiences of Episcopal missionaries in China, histories recounted by twentieth-century immigrants to America, descriptions of work in the Lynn shoe industry, and interviews with World War I and II veterans. Anderson also undertook several projects that were not directly affiliated with Northeastern University, including work with the Cape Ann Historical Association, the Lincoln Historical Society, the Newton Free Library, and the Winchester Archival Center. As director of the Oral History Program at Northeastern, Wayne Anderson's responsibilities included developing, implementing, and managing interviewing projects; editing transcripts; supervising research; preparing users' guides for the interviews; and caring for the tape collection. While the program enjoyed popularity for a few years, it was not strong enough to sustain itself within the history department. His death in 1991 also contributed to the demise of the program.

Overview

The Oral History Collection consists of material pertaining to oral history projects that Wayne Anderson and his students conducted under the auspices of the Northeastern University Department of History from 1977 to 1991. Oral History Office records pertain to the development and organization of the oral history program at Northeastern and include lecture notes, book lists, curriculum materials, correspondence, and book reviews. Oral History Project records include original and duplicate audio tapes, partial or complete transcripts of interviews, and support documentation for interviews, including correspondence, narrator biographical data, legal releases, copyright information, interview schedules, users' guides to the interviews, and interview outlines. There is also collateral material for some interviews, including reproductions of photographs, maps, brochures, newspaper articles, and personal effects such as photocopied diaries and letters. Oral History Projects included the American China Mission Project, Cambridge School Crisis Project, Immigrant Voyages Project, Lynn Shoe Industry Project, Massachusetts Port Authority Project, Merchant Marine Project, New England Fishermen Project, Professions and Society Project, the Sixties Project, Town Histories Project, Transportation Project, and Vietnam War, World War I, and World War II Projects.

System of Arrangement:

The collection is organized into three series: Series I. Oral History Office; Series II. Oral History Projects; and Series III. Audio Tapes.

Physical Location

26/1-2

Bibliography

  • Control File, Oral History Collection, A21.
  • McGee, Patrick. "Retired Professor of History, 48, Dies," The Northeastern News (February 20, 1991): 3.
  • "Oral History: A Living Record of the Past," The Northeastern Edition (June 28, 1979): 6.
Title
Finding aid for the Department of History, Oral History Office Records
Author
Finding aid prepared by Meg Moughan
Date
November 1997
Language of description
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US