In the 1970s, thanks in large part to the bicentennial of the United States, many oral histories were recorded. At the Latah County Historical Society (LCHS) 480 oral histories were recorded, transcribed and are available for research. When preforming historical research oral histories are unique. Many historical resources are written down. The act of writing something down usually implies that the author paused and spent time crafting a well articulated response to a letter or perhaps a carefully thought out diary entry or even an edited book.
Oral histories can also be described as historical interviews. These interviews are conducted by oral historians to learn about the interviewee’s life through their words. Oral histories can add a bit of candor to the historical record that might not have been present in the written record. Interviews conducted in the 1970s were recorded onto cassette tapes and later transcribed. The LCHS oral history collection has been carefully cataloged and stored since the interviews were recorded and the transcripts were created.
In the 1980s a part of the LCHS oral history collection was shared with our colleagues at the University of Idaho. This was done in order to duplicate the holdings so that if there was a disaster at one location there would still be a backup of these important historic records. Earlier this year the University of Idaho Special Collections Digital Resources department digitized the LCHS oral history collection. This collection can now be accessed via the web at their website here: http://digital.lib.uidaho.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/latah
The University of Idaho did a remarkable job of making this collection more accessible for researchers as the transcripts are now searchable and the audio is also available. This is a fantastic resource for researchers, who can now search through transcripts and hear historic figures.
While not all of the LCHS oral histories are digitized on the UI website, many of them are. I encourage everyone interested in local history to take a moment and search for your favorite Latah County historical figure, event or place in the search function to find out more about the history of Latah County.
– Zachary Wnek Museum Curator Latah County Historical Society