Collection Highlight: Oral Histories

Transcripts of The Urbana Free Library Local History Roundtable discussions

While spending time with your family over the holidays, chances are you heard stories about the “good old days” from your grandparents, aunts or uncles, or parents. Perhaps you can’t get enough of these reminiscences. If that’s the case, check out the Champaign County Historical Archives collection of over 250 oral histories.

The recordings cover wide-ranging topics such as the history of sweets shops in Champaign-Urbana; the construction of Lincoln Square Mall; high school days in the 1930s at Urbana High School; and the experience of being African-American in Champaign-Urbana during the twentieth century. Conducted by volunteers and library staff, these interviews were recorded from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. Many of them were a result of The Urbana Free Library Local History Roundtable, a monthly discussion of topics of local interest with three community participants, held in the Archives Reading Room. Covering a variety of topics, these oral histories offer a valuable resource for those looking for anecdotes that add depth and interest to what a newspaper article, photograph, or city directory listing can convey.

Recordings can be accessed as .pdf transcripts or .mp3 sound files at home from our catalog, Local History Online. We also have recordings available in the Archives Reading Room, as well as transcripts of some conversations.

If you'd like more information about conducting oral histories of your own, check out these resources:

-Sarah L., Archives Assistant