Frank Kelly's Father in the Great White Fleet. Kelly [Frank K.] Oral History. OHThe Oral Histories Collection holds primarily interviews conducted by Special Collections staff, along with supporting documentation. Also included are oral histories done by others and donated to Special Collections. Many of the oral histories augment materials in other areas of Special Collections. The Oral History unit in the Department of Special Collections ceased operations in 2010, but oral histories done by others are still collected and preserved by the library.


In 1969, the Department of Special Collections at UCSB took the first steps to establish an oral history program. At the time, Christian Brun, head of the Department of Special Collections, and Gibbs Smith, a doctoral candidate in the history department, investigated practices of established oral history programs at other universities. The UCSB program was begun with interviews in the areas of Santa Barbara regional history and the campus history of UCSB.

The central aim of an oral history project is the collection and preservation of historically valuable individual recollections that would otherwise be lost. The initial goals of the Santa Barbara Oral History project were to develop interviews with three groups of people whose achievements have been in areas which appear to be of special concern to this campus.

  • Notable individuals living in the Santa Barbara area, whose achievements would be of interest regardless of where they occurred.
  • Persons intimately connected with the regional history of Santa Barbara;
  • And, persons whose careers and recollections cast light on the history of the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California.

*The above description is largely derived from an article by Christian Brun published in Soundings (June 1972).

Notable Material

The following are subjects that are found in the holdings of the Oral History Collection.

  • Architecture/Urban Planning. Interviews with Joseph T. Bill, John C. Harkness, H. Ralph Taylor, Congressman James H. Scheuer, Yukio Kawaratani, Ray Hebert, Jack Bevash, James Langenheim, Niels Stoermer, Cesar Pelli, Edward Logue, Edward L. Barnes, Harry Cobb, Bruce Allen, and Edward Helfeld.
  • Arts and Entertainment. Includes interviews with Paul Radin (film producer) and Howard Walls (early 20th century Hollywood).
  • Cultural Diversity. Includes the Japanese American /Nisei Oral History Project, Helen and Hiroshi Takeda, Anita Mackey, and Mississippi/Headstart Project.
  • Humanistic Psychology. Includes interviews with leading practitioners such as James F. T. Bugental, Stanley Keleman, Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir, Robert Tannenbaum, and the Avanta network.
  • Santa Barbara Area History. Interviews relating to Harold S. Chase (Hope Ranch; brother of Pearl Chase), Joel Conway (photography and film industry), Direct Relief International, Frances Gledhill (community and political issues), Loyd Amos and Berta Lee Winniford Kelley (early 20th century Santa Barbara), Jeanette Lyons (early 20th century Santa Ynez Valley), Old Town Goleta Oral History Project, UCSB Public History projects (State Street, water, fires, Santa Barbara wine history).
  • UCSB. Interviews relating to faculty and administrators such as Ellen Bowers (Dean of Women), Vernon Cheadle (UCSB Chancellor and botanist), Donald Davidson (University Librarian), Katherine Esau (botanist), Lieslotte Fajardo (library), Thomas Fleming (Black Studies), Friends of the UCSB Libraries (events and programs), Mario Garcia (History/Chicano Studies), Theodore Harder (early Goleta campus years), Garrett Hardin (biology, population, and ecology), Hugh Kenner (English), Herbert Kroemer (Nobel Prize winner, Physics, 2000), Katherine McNabb (library - Riviera and early Goleta campus years), Lawrence Willson (English).
  • World War II. Experiences of Donald C. Davidson, Robert O. Easton (who also published his correspondence with his wife, Jane Easton, in Love and War) Douwe Stuurman, Bob Tannenbaum, and George Wittenstein (White Rose German resistance movement).
  • Writers, Printers, and Publishers. Harry Ashmore (newspaperman, Pulitzer Prize winner, CSDI), Robert O. Easton (western and California fiction), Anton K. Money (1920s Yukon mining frontier), Hobart Skofield (Printers Collection, printing industry, and Rudge Press), Noel Young (Capra Press).
  • UCSB printed or manuscript collections. Includes interviews relating to Mercedes Eichholz (re William O. Douglas), Frank Kelly (CSDI; Truman speech writer), Frances Holden/Lotte Lehmann (opera soprano), Jay Monaghan (Lincoln and Wyles Collection), Harvey Wheeler (CSDI).

Additional Resources

Most oral histories have an audio component as well as a transcript available for research use. Please check individual manuscript collection guides to learn if collection contains audiotapes that are digitized and readily available for listening, if transcripts are available, if collections are closed or restricted, or if additional processing may be required prior to use. For information on using the collections please contact the Special Collections reading room staff at or call (805) 893-3062.

To learn more about the "art" of oral histories please visit the UCSB's Oral History Program or you may refer to David E. Russell's (retired from UCSB) Oral History Workshop.

To make a donation of oral histories, please contact the Head of Special Collections.