The Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) is the oldest and largest organized oral history program in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains nearly 8,000 taped memoirs, and nearly 1,000,000 pages of transcript. These memoirs include interviews with a wide variety of historical figures. Some interviews, conducted in the late 1940s, contain recollections dating back to the second administration of Grover Cleveland. An interview with Charles C. Burlingham conducted in 1949 opens with a discussion of the drafts riots during the Civil War.
Over 2,000 scholars a year consult the interviews from the oral history collection archived at Columbia University. These researchers have written over 1,000 books using interviews from the collection, including: Cary Reich’s Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908 – 1958; Doris Kearn Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front in WWII; and Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize winning portrait of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, just to name a few. In addition, hundreds of dissertations and articles draw upon the oral histories in our collection. Notable biographical memoirs often cited include interviews with Judge Constance Baker Motley, New Deal leaders such as Frances Perkins, James Farley and Henry A. Wallace, and civil rights activists Clifford J. and Virginia Durr.
While a large part of our collection consists of biographical memoirs, historians and researchers also have at their disposal a rich range of projects focusing on specific topics and experiences. These include a series of project based interviews with people who witnessed and responded to the crises of September 11, 2001. To honor its long-standing mission of public dissemination, CCOH has recently developed an online oral history program, which features a visual history of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and a series of interviews with “Notable New Yorkers.” CCOH has also undertaken an extensive audio history of The Atlantic Philanthropies, founded by Charles F. Feeney, as well as a visual history of the Council on Foreign Relations. We are currently completing projects focusing on the Apollo Theater (Apollo Theater Oral History Project), 20th century women artists (Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts) and issues surrounding the death penalty and Guantanamo (Rule of Law Oral History Project).