The Oral History Collections (OH) at UCSB Special Research Collections date back to the late 1960s beginning with a project that aimed to collect interviews in the areas of Santa Barbara regional history and the campus history of UCSB. The goal of the project was to interview people whose achievements were in areas deemed to be of special concern to the UCSB campus including persons connected with the history of Santa Barbara, persons whose careers and recollections could cast light on the history of UCSB, and notable individuals living in the Santa Barbara area, whose achievements would be of interest regardless of where they occurred. In the 1980s through the mid-2000s, interviews were primarily conducted by Special Research Collections staff under the leadership of oral historian David E. Russell. Interviews conducted externally by other groups were also acquired. Following Russell’s retirement and the closure of the Oral History Unit in 2010, Special Research Collections infrequently conducted its own interviews, but continued to selectively acquire collections of oral history interviews created by other organizations as well as single interviews within other archival collections.

Collection Strengths

The Oral History Collections supported the research and scholarship needs of UCSB students and faculty and reflected the evolving collecting practices and priorities of Special Research Collections curators during that time period. Interviews relate to a variety of subjects including architecture and city planning, arts and entertainment, humanistic psychology, UCSB history, World War II, literature, printing, and publishing, and a variety of topics, events, and organizations specific to Santa Barbara regional history. Most interviews have an audio component as well as a transcript for research use. Less frequently, materials contain an additional moving image (video) component. Please check individual collection guides to learn if the 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. 

Collecting Priorities

Special Research Collections does not conduct oral history interviews for the Library, UCSB, or other organizations. Nor do we assist in the creation of oral history interviews beyond providing the following links to educational resources for doing oral history work. If you are embarking upon an oral history project with the intention of someday donating the material to UCSB Special Research Collections, we recommend you review the following guidelines for interview donations and contact the appropriate curator to discuss their collection priorities and any specific guidelines they may have for their collections. We also encourage you to consult the following resources for current professional best practices related to all aspects of oral history work from research to recording.

Interview Donation Guidelines

Special Research Collections is not actively growing the Oral History Collections but continues to selectively acquire interviews and collections of interviews as part of its other collecting areas including University Archives, Santa Barbara Local History, Performing Arts, and CEMA. Priorities for collecting oral histories are set by each curator. 

  • Typical basic oral history donations contain
    • oral history interview recordings (audio, video, or both)
    • interview transcripts
    • release forms signed by interviewees and the interviewer
    • documentation of the details of the interview (names, dates, etc.)
    • research files or photographs created as part of the interview process.
  • We accept oral history interview recordings, audio and video, in both analog and born-digital formats. Audio and video recordings must be of sufficient quality to create a transcript. We cannot accept significantly deteriorated analog recordings.
  • Donations should always be accompanied by signed release forms which outline the purpose of the interview and how the recording and transcript can be accessed. This includes how researchers may access transcripts and audiovisual recordings. Without this signed documentation we cannot provide access to the materials. Please see the ucsb_participant_consent_form_2022.pdf for an example of the type of form currently required by the UCSB Library.
  • We do not accept oral history donations that come with indefinite access restrictions or embargoes. See the following resources to learn more about best practices around informed consent.
  • We do not maintain websites, databases, or other online resources created as part of oral history projects. 
  • Interviews should always be accompanied by documentation that includes important interview metadata, especially the name of the interviewee, interviewer, and date of interview. Additional information should be included when available.
  • Transcripts reviewed and approved by the interviewee and interviewer are strongly preferred. The Library cannot provide transcriptions services for your interviews.
  • Small collections of research files and interview guides or photographs created during the interviews provide context for researchers and should be included when available.
  • For digital AV and electronic documents or files, donors should consult with the curator on the most appropriate way to temporarily label, store, and transfer the files to them.


Resources for Creating Oral Histories:


For information on accessing the Oral History Collections, please contact the Special Collections reading room staff at special@library.ucsb.edu

For information on donating an interview or interview collection, review the curators and staff directory and a description of our collecting areas and priorities to determine the most appropriate contact.

If you have questions about our Oral History Collections, these policies, or related resources, please contact the Oral History Collections Curator.