The Power of the Spoken Word

September 09, 2010

Oral HIS 1
 Wenxian Zhang (center) with students

2010 marks the 125th anniversary of Rollins College. As part of the celebration, the Department of Archives and Special Collections expanded a project that began in 2005: The Oral History Archive. Part of the Olin Library’s Digital Collections, the Oral History Archive is a compendium of interviews conducted with individuals who have made their mark on the Rollins community.

“We began to conduct the student-faculty collaborative research project in the Archives since 2002,” said Wenxian Zhang, head of Archives and Special Collections. “In 2004, I helped organize a seminar on oral history interview.  When I realized we did not have an established oral history program for the College, I applied for a grant the following summer.”

During that summer, the research team conducted a series of interviews with longtime faculty members and compiled the data into the first incarnation of the Oral History Archive. This year, a new team stepped up to the plate and expanded the original 10 interviews to 28. The participants now represent a cross-section of Rollins including staff, administrators, alumni and friends of the College.

Not only is the database a valuable primary resource for studying the history of Rollins, it is also innovative. Many other publically available oral histories contain either typed transcripts of the interviews or audio clips. The Oral History Archive combines them. Visitors to the site can read along as the speaker tells their story.

“It was definitely a different experience than what I’m used to, because this was more of a hands-on approach,” said Alia Alli (Class of 2011), one of the student researchers who worked on the project this summer.

It is projects like these that help preserve the history of Rollins College. The Oral History Archive can be accessed at:

By Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)

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