Search Oral History Archives
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Since 1986, the California State Archives has administered a legislatively established oral history program that has, to date, completed over 200 interviews. This systematic and disciplined effort to record, preserve, and make interviews available supplements the historical records in the Archives and provides researchers with a broader and more complete picture of California government than can be gleaned from documents alone.
Interviews are conducted with people who have had significant roles in California state government: former members of the legislature, constitutional officers, agency and department heads, and those who have shaped public policy or have been identified as being influential in political and public developments at the statewide level. The selection process is on a non–partisan basis, with the goal of illuminating key aspects of California government history. The interviews capture information that might otherwise be lost and prevents "corporate amnesia." The interviews also enhance the historical understanding of legislative and executive processes and policy–making in California by capturing the personal insights of these men and women.
While the program is administered centrally through the State Archives where professional staff analyze gaps in the historical record, set interview priorities and standards, and preserve tapes and transcripts, the interviews are carried out through contracts with oral history programs at several participating universities. Interviewers adhere to professional oral history principles, standards, and ethical guidelines. They do meticulous background research, identify key questions and areas of interest, conduct the interviews, and prepare accurate interview transcriptions that are reviewed and approved by the subject. The tape recordings and finished transcripts are deposited at the State Archives where they are open to research by the public.
If you have any questions regarding the Oral History Program or any suggestions for interviewees, please email OralHistory@sos.ca.gov