who loved listening to stories told by their parents and grandparents about
"the good old days" will appreciate the hundreds of oral histories
housed in the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History in Boulder.
"I can remember the cracker eating and whistling contests….. The first (person) who could eat three crackers and whistle would win a ticket for next Saturday's movie." [Pete Franklin]
The Carnegie's collection began in 1976 with dozens of donated audio tapes recorded by University of Colorado interviewers using what would now be considered fairly antiquated equipment. The original tapes were part of the Boulder Women's History Project, undertaken by the American Association of University Women, and the Women in Colorado: Hidden Faces of Oral History project.
"There were mines all over (Sunshine). Some of them didn't even have anything over the top of them. At night when you'd go to the dances, people would watch very carefully that they didn't step off the road into a mine hole."
Today, there are more than 1200 interviews, some of which came into the collection on fragile reel-to-reel tapes and scratchy audio cassettes. For the last few years, however, newer interviews have been recorded with digital video cameras. All have now been transferred to digital format in order to extend their shelf life.
While other libraries may have equally large oral history collections, few can claim that they were completed by volunteers. Each year, almost two dozen dedicated men and women add more than 60 new interviews to the library's collection. From early interviews with miners, ranchers and merchants to discussions with teachers, artists, activists, and doctors, the program seeks to document all aspects of life in Boulder and Boulder County through the eyes of those who have lived it.
"We had a coal/wood range. I still like to cook on a coal/wood range. The food tastes different and the biscuits are always better." [Annie Bailey]
In recent years, some volunteers have concentrated on specific fields of interest, a practice which has resulted in a series of tapes on city and county open space properties, the Rocky Flats plant, PLAN-Boulder County, the coal mining past of Old Town Superior, and several others.
"They come on strike in 1910. My dad never went back to work until 1915 - five years. That's when they had all that trouble. They brought the cavalry into Superior, and they stayed there for a couple of years just to keep the peace…" [Frank Miller]
For twelve years, the volunteer team was guided by Maria Rogers, herself a volunteer who was dedicated to expanding the program. Currently, a half-time manager oversees the Maria Rogers Oral History Program, funded by an endowment created after her death by Maria's son and his wife, Chris and Cathy Rogers.
With the help of grants from the Boulder Public Library Foundation, the Carnegie has kept pace with advances in digital technology. A new online archiving system now allows access to the interviews via the internet. Currently, summaries and transcripts are available on the internet, with audio access planned for later this year.
Eventually, it is hoped that full video access will be available on the web. Until then, the public can listen to audio interviews and watch video interviews at the Carnegie Library, 1125 Pine Street, in Boulder.
To use the oral history collection online, log onto the collection either through the Boulder Public Library Online Catalog www.boulder.lib.co.us , or directly to the online archive at www.bplcarnegie.org/oralhistory.
"Hearing a tape of reminiscences is similar to listening to a good friend talking at the kitchen table." [Maria Rogers].