Preservation, Education, Community Building
New Haven is home to some extraordinary stories. Stories about waves of Irish, Italian, Russian, Polish, and Latin American immigrants starting new lives here; about building rifles at Winchester and learning Latin at Yale; about Griswold v. Connecticut; about eating oysters at City Point and pizza on Wooster Street; about Oak Street and Urban Renewal, and May Day 1970. The list goes on and on.
Compelling as they are in their own right, each of these New Haven stories and others like them have much to teach us about race, class, education, government, immigration, and the other broad themes of American history. Whatís more, these are all extraordinary stories that cannot be understood accurately, if at all, without the insight of the people who were there. As one oral history interviewee noted wisely, you donít have to be famous for your life to be history. Traditional methods of historical inquiry depend largely on the sort of evidence that only the famous leave behind, offering a disparagingly bare picture of the past. Relying on personal memories rather than newspaper headlines, oral history has the power to give voice to people whose lives would otherwise remain obscure.
The New Haven Oral History Project records interviews about New Haven's past. The Project pursues interrelated archival, scholarly, and community goals. Through the New Haven Oral History Project Collection at the Yale University Library, the Project ensures that the valuable primary source material created by oral history interviewing is preserved according to the highest professional standards, and made readily available to the public. The Project also pursues a scholarly agenda of producing oral history-based original research about New Haven.
In all that it does, the Project seeks to share its work with a wide community audience. The Project strives to play its part in improving the tenor of town-gown relations. The unique character of an oral history interview makes the New Haven resident the expert; the interviewee is there to assist, and to learn. This dynamic is one that creates a reciprocal relationship between Yale and New Haven. The New Haven Oral History Project strives to create a civic space in which New Haven citizens, with all their diversity of experiences, can work together to compose a shared understanding of the past. In doing so, it is our hope, they will participate in building a common sense of the present and future.
The New Haven Oral History Project is based at Yale University and administered by the Yale University History Department. Major support for the Project comes from the Yale University President's Office and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Generous support also comes from the Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives Department, and Yale's History and Political Science Departments. Past supporters have included the Yale College Dean's Office.
Glenda Gilmore, Board Chair
Andy Horowitz, Director
Website design by Timothy Gambell