Soil Conservation Service Oral History Collection

Project description: These interviews were conducted in 1981 by the official historian of the Soil Conservation Service, Douglas Helms. The interviews were with “long-time employees,” some of which joined the SCS at its inception in 1935. Employees worked across the country, ranging from Oregon to Alabama.

Regulatory significance: Topics include: National Environmental Policy Act, watershed management, the work of the office of the administrator of the Soil Conservation Service, soil classification system, ways of achieving farmer participation in conservation programs, Civilian Conservation Corps, Great Plains Conservation Program, Strip Mine Commission, forest management, and relationships between SCS and Congress and state governments.

Repository: Iowa State University

Interview dates: 1981

Digital access: No online transcripts or audio.

Physical access: For transcripts and audio, visit the special collections department at Iowa State University.


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

Florida Legislative History Oral Histories

Project description: The Florida Division of Historical Resources conducted this series of  interviews for the creation of a proposed “Museum of Florida Political History and Governance,” but the museum was never built. Interviews were conducted with “prominent and influential political figures from Florida’s legislative past,” according to the project description.

Regulatory significance: Difficult to determine, as no online abstracts of these interviews are available.

Repository: State Archives of Florida

Interview dates: 2000 – 20002

Digital access: None.

Physical access: For audio and, in some cases, video, researchers may visit the State Archives of Florida in Tallahassee.


Unemployment Insurance Project

Project description: This project of 15 oral histories provides a survey of the history and development of the Unemployment Insurance Service in the United States. The interviewees discuss the relationship of unemployment insurance to the Social Security Board, to the Department of Labor and to organized labor. They offer useful background on various areas of New Deal activity.

Regulatory significance: This collection deals with a number of regulatory issues related to rule-making, monitoring, and enforcing of unemployment insurance, with interviewees who worked on unemployment insurance from the 1930s up to 1980. According to the project abstract, the participants describe policy development for unemployment insurance in terms of eligibility requirements, disqualification, merit and experience ratings, duration, benefit formulas, and supplemental and temporary extended benefits. There are interesting comparisons of state and federal programs and the degree of control in each case, together with examples of lobbying on state and national levels, and problems of financing the programs.

RepositoryColumbia Center for Oral History

Interview dates: 1980-1982

Digital access: Only abstracts. No online transcripts or audio.

Physical access: For transcripts and audio, researchers may visit the Columbia Center for Oral History.


Interviewees: Ralph Altman; Joseph M. Becker; Geraldine Beideman; Saul Blaustein; Philip Booth; Eveline M. Burns; Ewan Clague; Wilbur J. Cohen; Edward L. Cushman; Margaret M. Dahm; Robert B. Edwards; Robert C. Goodwin; William Haber; Curtis P. Harding; Russell Hibberd; J. Eldred Hill, Jr.; Edward L. Keenan; Leonard Lesser; Wilbur D. Mills; William U. Norwood; William Papier; Beman Pound; George S. Roche; James M. Rosbrow; Harold Rosemont; Murray A. Rubin; Marion Williamson.

Minnesota Powerline Oral History Project

Project description: These 44 interviews involve people on all sides of a controversy in western Minnesota over the routing of power lines. Per the finding aide, “the controversy escalated as costs of the project rose and additional frustration was created by cumbersome review processes, and by what many protesters saw as excessive concern by the federal and state governments for wildlife areas and highway right of way at the expense of protection for productive farmland.”

Regulatory significance: This project effectively captures a kaleidoscope of views over what tradeoffs regulators should make. Interviewees include politicians, regulators at the Department of Natural Resources, affected farmers, and board members of the electric cooperatives.

RepositoryMinnesota Historical Society

Interview dates: 1977-1979

Digital access: Transcripts and audio are available online.

Physical access: Original audio tapes are kept at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Minnesota Farm Economy Oral History Project

Project description: These eighteen interviews explore Minnesota farm life, particularly during the early 20th century. Interviewees discuss their roles and those of various agricultural organizations, and their work in banking and business development on Minnesota’s agricultural economy.

Regulatory significance: Some of these interviews explore the links between financial regulations and agriculture. They also address issues of private regulation through agricultural organizations and lobbying efforts to change agricultural regulatory practice, including price setting. Migrant labor and labor regulation also comes in a few interviews.

RepositoryMinnesota Historical Society

Interview dates: 1988-1992

Digital access: Transcripts, as well as audio and in some cases video, are available online.

Physical access: Audio tapes are kept at the Federal Reserve Bank Library in Minneapolis.


Minnesota Environmental Issues Oral History Project

Project description: This project contains more than 30 interviews with a variety of players in Minnesota environmental regulation. They explore issues such as timber wolf preservation, acid rain control, and forest management policies.

Regulatory significance: These interviews involve a wide range of environmental regulation issues, including use of lawsuits, tradeoffs with agricultural production, the involvement of nonprofits like the Nature Conservancy. Most of the interviewees were involved in these issues as activists and members of nonprofit organizations rather than as governmental regulators.

RepositoryMinnesota Historical Society

Interview dates: 1986-1990

Digital access: Transcripts and audio are available online, as well as photos of many of the interviewees.

Physical access: For any interview not available online, visit the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Mississippi Headwaters Board Oral History Project

Project description: Per the finding aide, the Mississippi Headwaters Board was created to coordinate the identification and protection of the natural, cultural, historical, scientific, and recreational values of the first 400 miles of the Mississippi River. Its work centered on eight counties in north central Minnesota through which this portion of the river flows. The 14 people interviewed discuss their own river-related activities, as well as their observations on changes in recreational, commercial, and residential use of the river and its shoreline. Many of the interviews include comments on water quality, floods, droughts, dam construction, fishing, wildlife, and conservation.

Regulatory significance: Collection deals with many issues of local environmental regulation, including water quality ordinances, and trade-offs with business interests—particularly agriculture and development.

RepositoryMinnesota Historical Society

Interview dates: 1999-2001. Interviews conducted with people associated with the Mississippi River during the period 1910-1960.

Digital access: Transcripts are available online, as well as photos of many of the interviewees.

Physical access: The tapes are held by Mississippi Headwaters Board, Walker, Minnesota.


Florida Legislators

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.

Repository: Florida Legislative Research Center

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.