Tag Archives: Database

Review: Oral History Online


Launched in April 2004, Oral History Online (ORHI) has undertaken the daunting task of indexing English language oral histories from collections and repositories all over the world. Among many excited oral historians, Michael Frisch and his colleagues wrote that ORHI, “… offers a rich mix in both cataloging and indexing tools, and has real power in this regard.”1 Updated quarterly, the initial 7,000 interviews from 850 collections has grown to 18,421 interviews from over 2,700 collections, many with full text transcriptions and indexes greater than 4,200 audio and video files.

Search: Users are able to search using several tools. Subscribers may browse the Table of Contents, divided into “Repositories,” “Collections,” “Interviews,” “Date,” “Places,” “Historical Events,” and “All Subjects,”  which allows for serendipitous discoveries.  Under the “Find Collections” tab, users can search through metadata to find collections relevant to their interests. The “Find Interviews” tab provides the same functionality for interviews, with the option to keyword search full-text where available. The results of these searches are not always fully accessible through the database. Some interviews link to external sources and some are housed within repositories or collections which themselves require subscriptions or for the researcher to physically visit the archive.

Digitization of Material: Oral History Online does not digitize any material. Rather, the database indexes records of previously digitized interviews housed by other institutions. Where possible, ORHI provides full-text transcriptions and links to audio and visual material; none of these resources were produced by ORHI, thus copyright of the material belongs to the home institutions.


Date Range: 1930-2008

Publisher: Alexander Street Press

Publisher About Page: http://alexanderstreet.com/products/oral-history-online

Object Type: Oral Histories, Transcriptions, Audio, Video

Location of Original Material: Various repositories and collections, public and private, throughout the world.

Exportable Image: Not applicable

Facsimile Image: Not applicable

Full Text Searchable: Yes

Titles List Links:





Original Catalog: Various. The original catalogs are house in the collections and repositories Oral History Online has drawn from which can be found under the “Repositories” and “Collections” tabs under the “Table of Contents”.

Digitized from Microfilm: No. Many interviews were digitized from interview tapes and records. Some were born digital.

Original Sources: The collections and repositories ORHI indexes. These range from repositories at major institutes such as universities and museums to collections of small communities.


Frisch, Michael, Jennifer Abraham, Jeff Suchanek, and Pamela Dean. “Oral History Online.” The Oral History Review 32, no. 2 (2005): 89-100. JSTOR:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3675745.

Speer, L.K. “Oral History Online.” Choice Reviews vol. 43 no. 12 (2006). Choice Reviews: http://choicereviews.org.mutex.gmu.edu/review/10.5860/CHOICE.43Sup-0579

Henson, Pamela M. “Oral History Online.” The Journal of American History 92, no. 1 (2005): 32. JSTOR:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3660698

LaGuardia, Cheryl. “ORAL HISTORY ONLINE.” Library Journal 129, no. 10 (June 2004): 39-40. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost: http://mutex.gmu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=13280458&site=ehost-live


Alexander Street offers institutional and personal access through subscription. Pricing in negotiated on a case-by-case basis and is not advertised.2 A free 30-day trail is available.

Info from Publisher:

ORHI’s “Help” page offers a “Guided Tour” and in depth information about the available search tools.  The “About” page includes copyright information and technical support contacts.

Other Info:

Copyright: Users should be aware that much of ORHI’s content is not public domain and that copy right may be owned by the indexed institutions- and in many cases those institutions do not own the copyright. Under the “Details” of individual interviews there is occasionally a “Restrictions” field that describes the copy right status of the item.

Accessing Interviews: ORHI is a powerful discovery tool, however the database often does not offer direct access to indexed interviews. Where possible, audio files, full-text transcriptions and video are accessible, but much of the content is exclusively housed in the original repositories and catalogs.


The “Details” tab of interviews supplies the metadata necessary for major citation styles such as MLA, APA and Chicago.  In  addition to citing the interview itself, be sure to cite Oral History Online as well.

 1 “Oral History Online,” Frisch, Michael, Jennifer Abraham, Jeff Suchanek, and Pamela Dean. The Oral History Review 32, no. 2 (2005): 90.JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3675745.
2 According to L.K. Speer’s 2006 Choice Reviews article, subscriptions run between $350 and $3,990. See citation under “Reviews.”
NOTE: The format for this review used Beyond Citation: http://www.beyondcitation.org/ as a template.