National Institutes of Health Oral Histories

Project description: The National Institutes of Health have conducted more than 100 interviews, some conducted by the History Associates and some conducted by oral historians on staff at the Office of NIH History.

Regulatory significance: Many of the interviews are highly technical discussions of medical techniques and research, but some of them discuss the evolution of safety regulations for hospitals, medical devices, and diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Interview dates: ~1964-2009

Digital access: Transcripts of many of the interviews are available online.

Physical access: Researchers will need to call or email to make an appointment to visit the Office of NIH History in Bethesda, Maryland.


Food and Drug Administration Oral History Program

Collection description: The FDA began its oral history program in the mid 1970s, interviewing staff members towards the end of their careers. Per the oral history program’s description, “Though the program’s early focus was on agency staff directly connected to enforcement work, the History Office today collects oral histories from staff at all levels and across the agency.” More detailed information on the program can be found here.

Regulatory significance: This is a rich collection that explores in great detail the regulatory process from frontline monitoring to higher level rule-making.

Dates: 1974 – present

Digital access: Partial and full transcripts of many of these interviews can be found on the FDA website.

Physical access: Tapes and transcripts of the oral histories are deposited in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Interviewees: ~150

EPA History Program

Collection description: According to EPA Order 1000.27 the “EPA History Program” dated March 1992, the EPA must conduct an Oral History Program. Michael H. Gorn and Dennis Williams served as the first historians of the EPA, and conducted the five oral history interviews with administrators and a deputy administrator.

Regulatory significance: Though few in number, the interviews provide rich details on the early history of the EPA and its structural dynamics. Many interviews include comments on the EPA’s relationship with the White House, Congress, OMB, regulated industries, public interest groups, and state and local government. They also include insightful discussions of regulatory conflicts over pesticides, industry emissions, crises like Love Canal, and scientific determinations.

Dates: 1992 – 1995

Digital access: Only interviews with five former agency heads are available online, with William RuckelshausRussell TrainAlvin AlmWilliam K. Reilly, and Douglas M. Costle.

Washington State Oral History Program

Collection description: The Washington State Legislature maintains an oral history program that collects interviews with influential legislators, from the 1930s onward. Most of the interviews are conducted in a biographically oriented life history style, and are extremely long, running to more than 500 pages as transcripts. Interviewees address their experience in the Washington State Legislature as well as other experiences in the private sector and federal office.

Regulatory significance: These interviews cover a gamut of regulatory issues at the state level, including labor regulation, environmental regulation, and the role of lobbyists.

Location: Washington State Legislature in Olympia, Washington

Dates: 1983 – present

Access: Open to the public

Digital access: Transcripts for all but the most recent interviews are available online, as well as other digital material including photos and biographies.


Interviewees: ~24

Houston Library

Collective description: The Houston Library has produced several hundred oral histories that range from interviews with ordinary citizens to conversations with former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Most interviews appear to be conducted by community volunteers and library staff since around 2007, and most interviewees are elderly community members whose recollections center on changes in Houston particularly during the 1960s-1980s.

Regulatory significance: The most promising collection of oral histories related to regulation is the library’s project commissioned by former mayor Bill White. Those interviews center on major events and the political and business history of Houston. Users can browse interviews by subject, and relevant subjects include: community development, conservation of the environment, environment, legislators, oil and gas industry, and politics and government.

Relevant projects:
Mayor Bill White Collection

Digital access: Yes. Audio or video as well as transcripts of almost all interviews are available on-line through links in the finding aid.

Physical access: Researchers interested in the original audio may visit the Houston Library.


California State Archives

Repository description: The California State Archives houses interviews with over 400 people in their combined Governmental History and State Government Oral History programs. The interview production effort began in 1969 with the Earl Warren Era Oral History Project. In 1985, the California State legislature established the State Government Oral History Program “to provide through the use of oral history a continuing documentation of state policy development as reflected in California’s legislative and executive history.” The website lists brief descriptions (a single paragraph) of each interview, but no further detail.

Regulatory significance: Many of these interviews promise to be of regulatory significance, though mostly from the legislative and executive level point of view rather than from any on the ground perspective.

Relevant projects: The subject index suggests that this is a fruitful cache on environmental policy (including water resources, air quality, and even an interview related to fish and game regulation), agriculture, consumer education/consumer protection, labor policy, health insurance, public health, and the role of lobbyists.

Digital access: No online access of these transcripts is available.

Physical access: Transcripts are available for a stated fee or through UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office. Complete transcripts are also available at UCLA and the California State Archives in Sacramento. Microfilmed transcripts are available through ILL.


National Museum of American History

Repository description: The National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian complex, keeps a relatively extensive selection of oral history projects in its Archives Center. Several of them include online transcripts and other digital material.

Regulatory significance: Many of the relevant oral history projects in this repository speak to technological change, advertising, and other areas of business regulation. Several collections appear to speak to private regulation, particularly as it relates to standard setting.

Relevant projects:
Computer Oral History Collection
Containerization Oral History Collection
Marlboro Oral History Collection
Southern Agriculture Oral History Project

Digital access: Transcripts available online on a project to project basis.

Physical access: Holdings are available to researchers at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC.


Florida Legislative Research Center

Collection description: This collection consists of more than 150 video oral histories with Florida legislators, with a focus on those who served in key leadership roles. The oral history program was established by the Florida legislature in order to provide a vehicle for institutional memory, particularly once term limits were enacted for legislators; the primary intended audience is new legislators who seek to better understand the work-place culture of the Florida legislature. Interviews are conducted by a contracted vendor that employs former journalists who covered the legislators.

Regulatory significance: This collection should prove valuable to researchers interested in how legislative culture and the legislative process affects regulatory policy at the state level. Unlike some heavily biography oriented oral histories of legislators, these interviews provide insight into the goals of legislators, the culture of the Florida legislature, and the legislative learning process. Interviewees discuss their legislative experiences going back to the 1950s. The repository does not have abstracts or subject listings for its individual oral histories, but interested researchers should contact the repository with specific questions.

Interview dates: 1999 – present

Digital access: No online availability. Website only contains listing of interviewees.

Physical access: Collection is accessible by appointment at the Florida Legislative Research Center & Museum at the Historic Capitol, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL. To set up appointments, call (850) 487-1902.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Collection description: At least two projects have collected interviews with former EEOC administrators and staff. In 1999, students at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) conducted eight oral history interviews with former EEOC staff members. Additionally, the EEOC conducted video interviews with about a dozen EEOC staff members and other stakeholders for its 35th anniversary.

Regulatory significance: Some of the interviews contain rich information regarding the evolution of the EEOC, on the ground investigations and enforcement, its relationship with employers and labor unions, and intraoffice conflicts.

Dates: 1999-2000

Digital access: Transcripts—some full, some partial, and some merely summary—of interviews conducted through Southwest Texas State University are available online. The links to video interviews conducted by the EEOC appear to be broken, and full transcripts are not available.

Interviewees: ~20