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Amelia Fry interviews Helen Gahagan; both are seated at a table piled with papers, teacups, and a microphone.

Oral History Center : K-16

Recording and preserving the history of California and our interconnected world

The Oral History Center provides resources for K-16 educators to help students learn through oral history, as well as opportunities for undergraduates to get experience in oral history process and production. For decades, the Oral History Center has partnered with educational resource organizations, such as the California History-Social Science Project, to build curriculum content for K-16 educators using our oral history collection. Our collection provides a wealth of firsthand accounts relevant to classes on American history, world history, and government, including interviews on civil rights, immigration, politics, and LGBTQ history, to name just a few. 

The resources in this section include individual lesson plans for specific topics, such as epidemics in history; user guides for our search tool; and sample projects with multimedia components. Opportunities for undergraduates include internships, student employment, and prizes. 

If you’re interested in our educational programs, such as our Introductory Workshop or Advanced Institute, or resources on how to do oral history, such as remote interviewing  or interviewing tips, visit the Educational programs section of this website.

More about our K-16 resources

Classroom resources

Oral History interviewing

Find recommendations for how to build a class in which the students conduct interviews. For education during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also information on how to record interviews using Zoom.

How to Build a Class Around Oral History

Recording Oral History Using Zoom

General resources

Get the information you need to use existing oral histories in the classroom, with a guide for how to use our advanced search tool to find content in our oral history collection, as well as examples of different types of assignments students could do using our oral histories.

How to use our advanced search tool to find material from among our 4,000+ interviews!

AIDS curriculum

Selma Dritz at chalkboard
This grade 11 curriculum module was designed for teaching the history of epidemics in U.S. history. Although there is a brief primer on the broad patterns of epidemics in U.S. history, there is a strong focus on the primary sources of our collection of interviews about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

This module makes extensive use of our seven-episode First Response podcast, which provides an accessible history of the epidemic using the interviews from our collection. Use the podcast to help students identify themes in the interviews that will help them think about their assignments. There is suggested content for assignments in four topic areas: women and gender in the epidemic; researchers hunting for an unknown disease in different ways; public health and early treatments for an unknown disease; and the struggle for gay rights in the context of the epidemic. Each of these topics was touched on in the podcast, but there is plenty of room for students to take them further in their assignments. However, it should be a requirement that they not merely duplicate the information that is in the podcast.

Finally, there is a page of additional online primary sources for the students to consult. The actual nature of the assignments depends on your class level. We had in mind a grade 11 class of motivated students.

Introduction to Epidemics in History Module

The AIDS Archive Lesson Plan: Oral History as Evidence

Historical HIV/AIDS General Resources

HIV-AIDS Assignments Grade 11

This document contains the following assignments:

  • Sample assignment to work on together as a class
  • Women on the Front Lines: Gender, Identity, and Values
  • Virus Hunters: The Search for HIV
  • The Early Search for Treatments
  • Pride and Prejudice: Gay Rights vs. Collective Responsibilities in the Shadow of AIDS

See also an example of the Virus Hunters assignment completed by a high school student (rising sophomore). This project took approximately 20 hours: Virus Hunters Newsletter.

Photo: Selma Dritz, M.D. (1982), early AIDS researcher, epidemiologist, and San Francisco public health official, from the Sally Hughes AIDS research collection at UCSF, on Calisphere. Photo by Jerry Telfer, San Francisco Chronicle.  

Get experience

There are a variety of ways for undergraduates to engage with the Oral History Center. Internship opportunities enable students to conduct research; assist in interviews; and create interpretive materials, such as articles and podcasts. Different employment opportunities include everything from working with audio visual to writing tables of contents for oral history manuscripts. 

For information about opportunities for graduates and post-graduates, please visit the Educational Programs section of the website. 

URAP (Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program)

The Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) is designed to involve UC Berkeley undergraduates more deeply in the research life of the University, with new opportunities announced at the start of each semester. When the Oral History Center has research opportunities for URAP students, these will be posted on the URAP website. URAP students receive college credit and a small stipend. 

Examples of former projects include:

Creation of the podcast “‘Rice All the Time?’: Chinese Americans in the Bay Area in the Early 20th Century,” by Miranda Jiang. 

Scientific research by Caitlin Iswono, as described in her article “A Story of Science: Oral History Undergraduate Research.” 

Caitlin Iswono
Caitlin Iswono, UC Berkeley Class of 2021, majors in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE). (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Iswono.)

Internships

We do not have a formal independent internship program at this time. Please contact the director of the Oral History Center to inquire about any other opportunities that might be available. (See the Overview section for contact information.)

Employment

The Oral History Center has a number of paid employment opportunities for UC Berkeley undergraduates with and without work study. Student employees assist in the production and promotion of oral histories, which could include working with audio visual; depositing materials to The Bancroft Library; office assistance; writing tables of contents for oral histories; editing front matter for our oral history manuscripts; conducting research for social media; and researching and writing articles based on our collection. Positions open most frequently at the beginning of each semester and the summer, but there might be open positions at any time of the year. To see if there are employment opportunities available, visit Handshake, UC Berkeley’s recruiting platform for UC Berkeley students. If there are no open positions, check Handshake again later. 

Here are some examples of projects by student employees. 

For the 150th anniversary of women at UC Berkeley, research assistant Deborah Qu created a collection guide of oral histories of the Women of the University of California, then wrote articles about some of the women, including this one: “The Fighting Spirit of Ida Louise Jackson.”

Ida Louise Jackson
Ida Louise Jackson, UC Berkeley class of 1922

For the anniversary of Title IX, editorial assistant William Cooke wrote this article: “Title IX in Practice: How Title IX Affected Women’s Athletics at UC Berkeley and Beyond.”
 

Prizes

The Carmel and Howard Friesen Prize in Oral History Research

The Carmel and Howard Friesen Prize in Oral History Research recognizes scholarly achievement in using primary source material. The $500 prize will be awarded to a UC Berkeley undergraduate who submits the best essay in any discipline that draws upon Oral History Center interviews. 

About Carmel and Howard Friesen

The prize is named for Carmel and Howard Friesen, Cal alums who shared a love of the campus (where they met), The Bancroft Library, and undergraduate education. In 2015, the Friesens granted the Oral History Center a generous endowment that supports this prize, with the goal of encouraging and recognizing undergraduate student achievement in research. The endowment also supports oral history interviews, and Howard Friesen is a narrator of his own oral history, Howard R. Friesen: Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist of UC Berkeley. Carmel (Candy) and Howard were married for 64 years until Carmel passed away in 2015.

About Oral History Center interview topics

The Oral History Center has interviews on almost every topic imaginable — with a focus on the United States and a smattering of international interviews. A project like Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, for example, addresses issues including California’s coastal climate, food and wine agribusinesses, and the growth of multinational corporations. Interviews are easily accessible online.

Thematic areas include arts and literature; the environment, science, engineering, and medicine; social movements; community history; business and labor; politics and government; law and jurisprudence; food, wine, and agriculture; and the history of the University of California.

Major projects featuring multiple interviews include: the Berkeley Free Speech Movement; the marriage equality movement; Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front; venture capital; Kaiser Permanente and health care; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; mining and the environment; the law clerks of Chief Justice Earl Warren; the Sierra Club; the disability rights and independent living movement; Napa Valley; and Japanese American Confinement Sites, to name just a handful. 

Searching the collections

Use the search feature on the OHC overview page to search by title, topic, or keyword. Or you can browse our projects. After you’ve conducted your own search, you can contact Interim Director Paul Burnett if you have an idea for a paper and would like some assistance culling through our collections. 

Due date and submission requirements

Deadline for the 2022 prize is Friday, May 13, at 11:59 p.m. The prize recipient will be notified over the summer. 

Submissions should be delivered via email to OHC Interim Director Paul Burnett. You may submit a paper at any time throughout the year. The prize recipient will be invited to our annual “commencement” event, where we honor all the narrators who gave oral histories over the previous year. This event may not take place in 2021.

Eligibility and selection criteria

Eligibility

  • You must be a UC Berkeley undergraduate. 
  • The paper must be written for a credit course at UC Berkeley. 
  • Papers should have been written during the current academic year, the previous summer, or the previous spring. For example, for the spring 2021 prize, students can submit papers from a class taken in spring 2021, fall 2020, summer 2020, or spring 2020.
  • The essay should be no longer than 15,000 words and should contain appropriate citations. There is no minimum length.

Selection criteria

The selection committee will evaluate the submission based on these three criteria:

  • How well oral histories are integrated within and essential to the overall essay
  • How creatively oral histories are used in the essay
  • The overall quality and persuasiveness of the essay
Financial aid regulations

Please note: Federal financial aid regulations require that all awards received by a student not exceed their financial aid need as determined by a Congressional formula. It is possible, therefore, that the cash award for a prize could reduce some component of a student's package of financial aid awards. In these cases, the Financial Aid Office attempts first to reduce loan or work aid; fellowships, grants or scholarships are only reduced as a last resort. 

Questions 

Questions may be directed to OHC Interim Director Paul Burnett.