Reorganizing the GMU Oral History Program Collection

This post was written by Emily Curley, our Oral History Program Coordinator.

The George Mason University Oral History Program has conducted over 200 interviews since 1999. Because we’re always adding to the collection, it’s time to reorganize the physical collection and the finding aid.

Oral History Collection, #R0122, in our closed stacks.

What we’ve done so far:

We’ve reorganized the physical collection. This included moving CD’s of oral history interviews into new boxes and arranging the individual interviews by date, rather than alphabetically. The collection increased from nine to eleven boxes and range from the late 1970’s to 2017. These histories cover a wide variety of topics including the history of George Mason University and Northern Virginia.

Our Next Steps:

  • Comparing the finding aid to the physical collection
  • Revising long abstracts and creating missing abstracts
  • Creating a new finding aid
  • Creating workflow for periodic updates of the Oral History finding aid

We will compare the finding aid to the physical collection and fill in any missing interviews. The finding aid was last updated in 2013, so there are over 50 oral histories that need to be added. After we have confirmed that all of the interviews are updated, we will check the finding aid once again and revise some of the abstracts. Some abstracts have too much information while others have too little. Our aim is to be as consistent as possible.

A box with an oral history pulled out to show what information goes on the labels.

After confirming that the abstracts are correct, I will be working with the Archives and Manuscript Librarian, Liz Beckman, to create a new finding aid, which is expected to go on our website sometime this summer.

Finally, I will create a guide for the next oral historian (who will start in September) so that they can periodically add new interviews and keep the finding aid up to date.

Links

GMU Oral History Program

Youtube

Finding Aid

Other Oral History Holdings

OMEKA Site

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections. Additionally, requests can be made to listen to oral histories in our Reading Room. Copies can also be made for a fee, which are listed on our website. Some oral histories may need to be converted to disk before they are available to patrons. For questions about oral histories, contact Emily Curley. To schedule an appointment or to request copies of an oral history, contact our Research Services Coordinator, Rebecca Bramlett.

The Booknotes Oral History Program

Some of the 801 volumes that are part of the Brian Lamb Booknotes Collection, George Mason University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives.

Some of the 801 volumes that are part of the Brian Lamb Booknotes Collection, George Mason University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives.

One of the many unique collections housed here at University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives department is the Booknotes collection. Booknotes was a popular television program on C-SPAN hosted by the network’s creator, Brian Lamb, which ran from April 1989 through December 2004. The weekly hour-long program featured intense and educational one-on-one interviews with non-fiction authors. Notable guests included Hillary Clinton, David McCullough, and David Crosby, as well as former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. A grant from the C-SPAN Education Foundation has allowed SC&A to preserve Lamb’s personal copies of the 801 books that were covered on the program along with notes, correspondence with authors, and reviews.

To add to this collection the “Booknotes Oral History Project” began in the spring of 2014. The project interviews authors who appeared on and others who were involved with the Booknotes television program.  To date we have completed 25 interviews. Through these interviews we investigate the impact of Brian Lamb, C-SPAN, and Booknotes on then-contemporary political thought, the reading public, and the individuals involved.

Author Douglas Brinkley. Courtesy of Rice University.

Author Douglas Brinkley. Courtesy of Rice University

Our most recent interview took place on December 11, 2014 with author Dr. Douglas Brinkley. Dr. Brinkley is a leading historian in American, corporate, presidential, and conservation history who is a professor at Rice University, a fellow at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy, the history commentator for CBS News, and a contributing editor to the magazines Vanity Fair and American Heritage. Because of his prominence we were enthusiastic to secure Dr. Brinkley’s interview.

Author Douglas Brinkley appearing on the Booknotes program, April 18, 1993. Courtesy of the C-SPAN Booknotes website.

Author Douglas Brinkley appearing on the Booknotes program, April 18, 1993. Courtesy of the C-SPAN Booknotes website

Despite suffering from a chest cold, Dr. Brinkley spoke for nearly an hour about his experience on the program and how his Booknotes appearance, and subsequent friendship with Brian Lamb, ignited the career of the newly-emerging scholar. Dr. Brinkley appeared on Booknotes on April 18, 1993 to discuss his book ­­­­­­The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey. The early exposure of Booknotes was a huge launching pad for his career. This helps to show not only how the program could affect an individual author’s career, but it also shows the ways in which Brian Lamb and C-SPAN were tastemakers, influencing which authors became significant voices in American thought.


[Excerpt from Booknotes Oral History Project Interview with Dr. Douglas Brinkley, December 11, 2014, Booknotes Oral History Collection #R0143. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.]

 

Dr. Brinkley also discussed how important he thinks the Booknotes collection and oral history project are.


[Excerpt from Booknotes Oral History Project Interview with Dr. Douglas Brinkley, December 11, 2014, Booknotes Oral History Collection #R0143. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.]

The complete Booknotes collection is available for viewing in the SC&A Reading Room, Floor 2, Wing C of Fenwick Library.

You can view the entire interview here.

GIs Particpate in Soldier Shows while Waiting to Ship Out for Home

Earlier this fall an inquiry came to SC&A about the John C. Becher Soldier Show Collection (see Veronica Fisher’s post from Tuesday, October 20, 2009). Further correspondence revealed that the researcher had actually taken part in the World War II soldier show “Fall Out for Fun.” Excited by the prospect of learning more about the WWII Soldier Shows, we jumped on the opportunity to interview Joseph C. Siedlecki about his experience.

Soldiers in from of a USO Hostel in Kassel, Germany, 1945

Joseph C. Siedlecki joined the army at the age of 19, and was stationed throughout Europe during WWII. After the war ended, there were serious problems with transporting the soldiers back to the United States. Many soldiers, including Sieldecki, were forced to wait months before returning to the U.S. The soldiers were forced to find ways to bide their time, and the soldier shows were one such activity that helped to keep them entertained. Siedlecki saw an ad calling for musicians to participate in a USO solider show based in Heidelberg, Germany and took advantage of the opportunity to use his abilities to play both the clarinet and saxophone in the show.

The link below is an excerpt from my phone interview with Mr. Siedlecki explaining how he became involved with the soldier show, “Fall Out for Fun”:

Siedlecki_Excerpt_mp3

Siedlecki performed with “Fall Out for Fun” for about six months, touring Germany to entertain other soldiers waiting to go home. Finally in the spring 1946, he was given the “ok” to return to the States. Once home he attended college on the GI Bill and worked as an electrical engineer until retirement.

Soldiers performing in a soldier show in Berlin, Germany, 1946

The full interview with Joseph C. Siedlecki is available for listening at Special Collections & Archives.  Contact the Oral History Program at ohp@gmu.edu for more information about oral history resources.

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