Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Oral History Program
- The ALPL Oral History Program is dedicated to preserving the stories and memories of Illinois‘s citizens, not just the famous and prominent among us, but of people from all walks of life. Oral history combines the most ancient way humanity has preserved history—through the spoken word—with modern technology. It preserves the first-hand accounts of people who have lived eventful lives, giving voice to those who are too often overlooked by traditional historians, and recording stories and experiences too rarely preserved.
- The Oral History Program is organized into the projects listed below. Our top priority projects are Illinois Statecraft (IL politics), Agriculture in Illinois, and Veterans Remember, but we believe there is something of interest for everyone. We invite you to explore our site and discover for yourself the richness and diversity of our growing collection.
- Patrons who would like to find out more about a particular interview are encouraged to visit the Library. Many of our interviews include additional documents, photos and related materials that are preserved in the oral history archive maintained in the Library’s Audio-Visual Department. For further information, or for making an appointment, please call the reference desk at (217) 524-6358.
- Library hours are Monday – Friday: 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
ALPL Oral History Projects
African American Chronicles
Illinois’s African-Americans often have important Civil Rights stories to preserve, but their experiences encompass so much more. Theirs are often stories about the strength of African-American families, or of cherished institutions, or their own personal service, struggles or experiences. This project provides a venue for all of that, a place to preserve the vibrant voices of African-Americans from all walks of life.
Agriculture in Illinois
Agriculture is central to the story of Illinois. From Illinois‘s earliest settlement to the present, agriculture was and still is the state's most important enterprise. You’ll find a large and diverse collection of interviews here, capturing both farming in a bygone era and agriculture as it is practiced today.
It is not just people who have important stories to share. Historic homes and buildings often have their own story to tell, a story that is often central to the history of Illinois. This project is dedicated to collecting those stories, told by those who know these architectural gems best. Whether it be a prominent state building or a private home of a not so private person, the memories of these buildings, and the accounts of those who lived their lives there are worth preserving. They are part of the fabric of Illinois’s history.
The Community Stories project seeks to offer a glimpse into the unique history of individuals, organizations, businesses and local government that together make up the fabric of communities across Illinois. Contact us if you’re interested in featuring your own community’s story to our collection.
Education is Key
The Education is Key oral history project tells the story of education in Illinois that continues to evolve in our complex and dynamic society. This project studies both the triumphs as well as the many challenges that educators, students and community leaders face today.
The Family Memories collection is an eclectic mixture of interviews with people who have made special contributions to their families and communities, and who have a compelling story to tell us about their experiences.
he Historians Speak project is a collection of interviews conducted by professional historians with other historians who have spent their lives thinking, teaching and writing about Illinois and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.
The story of Illinois politics is not only colorful but also essential to our understanding of Illinois and its place in the nation and the world. This project focuses not just on Illinois politicians, but also on journalists, political aides, lobbyists, jurists, administrators, friends and relatives.
America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is a theme that animates much of Illinois’s history as well. This project gives voice to many of our recent immigrants, as each new wave adds to the mosaic that is the United States, enriching us and invigorating us in the process.
Organizations and Agencies
Every institution has a history, a story of its creation, how it has managed change over time, visionary leaders and office intrigues. Often, that history never gets preserved; those who work there are far too busy to find time to preserve their own history. Oral history interviews are therefore an ideal way for state agencies, private not-for-profits, and other organizations to record their history for posterity. These institutions are, after all, part of the fabric of our daily lives, worth preserving for future generations.
People of Faith
The People of Faith project preserves the stories and spiritual journeys of Illinoisans from the wide variety of religious faiths and callings as practiced in the early 21st Century.
Sports do more than entertain us. For many, they provide formative experiences as we come of age, often transforming our lives in ways we only dimly understand. This project is dedicated to collecting the stories of Illinois’s rich sports history, and preserving them for future generations.
This project honors our nation's veterans, as well as those who stayed behind. It is organized by war, and includes collections for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Gulf War, and the War on Terror.
Additional oral history collections found in the Library's Audio-Visual Archives:
- Adlai E. Stevenson III
- Christian County Coal Mining
- Department of Aging
- Homemaker's Project
- Italians in Chicago
- Starved Rock Oral Histories
- WW II Veteran Histories
Available by appointment only:
Call (217) 785-7955
The oral histories presented here are the result of the hard work, commitment, and generosity of many people and organizations. We are especially thankful for the continuing support of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and the tireless efforts of the Information Technology staff. Dedicated and talented volunteers have unselfishly offered their time and skills in conducting, transcribing, auditing, and editing the interviews.
The ALPL Oral History program has been fortunate to receive several grants from public and private institutions. Our granting institutions include the Tawani Foundation of Chicago, Illinois, which supports the
Veterans Remember project, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, whose grant supported the
Oral History of Illinois Agriculture project. The Springfield African-American History Foundation (SAAHF) transcriptions have been funded in part by an Illinois Humanities Council grant to the SAAHF.
We are indebted to Dr. Cullom Davis, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois-Springfield, formerly Sangamon State University. A pioneer in the field of oral history and a former president of the Oral History Association, Davis is a mentor and informal advisor to the program.
- Having problems with one of our interviews? Do you have suggestions for future interview candidates, or need advice for doing your own interview project? We welcome your comments and suggestions.
- Email address:
- Mark DePue
Director of Oral History, ALPLM
112 North 6th Street
Springfield, IL 62701