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Special Collections Research Center oral history collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS0371

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains consists primarily of oral histories conducted by or about George Washington University. The interviews exist in a variety of formats, including reel-to-reel tapes, audio cassette tapes, printed transcripts, digital files of transcripts, and digital recordings. Subjects covered by the interviews other than GW history include a school desegregation controversy in Montgomery County, Maryland in the 1970s; life experiences of long-term Foggy Bottom neighborhood residents; Washington, D.C. performing arts; and fair housing campaigns. The collection also includes interviews with Walter Fauntroy and Ari and Phyllis Kiev.

In addition to the interviews and transcripts, the collection includes administrative records related to the conduct of the interviews (correspondence, notes, etc.) as well as administrative records related to the various oral history projects represented in the collection.

Finally, the collection includes a significant amount of documentary material on school desegregation and the Rosemary Hills controversy, such as pamphlets, flyers, small publications, and newspaper clippings, that were intended to support the use of the related oral histories as a teaching collection. A detailed inventory of these items is located in Box 16.

This collection also includes oral histories conducted by undergraduate GW students Spring 2013 course HIST2020W, "Washington, DC: History, Culture, and Politics," taught by Dr. Christopher Klemek. These interviews are with former and current residents of Foggy Bottom and Southwest and discuss the 20th century history of the neighborhoods.


  • 1972-2016


Restrictions on Access

Some interviews in this collection are closed due to a lack of a signed release from the interviewee. A very small number of additional interviews have signed releases with further restrictions. These restricted and closed interviews are noted at the item level in the finding aid.

Physical files and transcripts of closed interviews have been moved to red boxes with an "R" number, although the cassette and reel-to-reel recordings of the interviews remain interfiled with open interviews.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical Note

The George Washington University Oral History Program was begun by Mary Jo Deering and others in the early 1970s. Situated in the university library, this program appears to have had both teaching and collecting aims, as it engaged in large documentation projects on current local issues, and also taught participants how to conduct and transcribe oral histories. In 1976, Deering and Barbara Pomeroy published a booklet titled “Transcribing Without Tears: A Guide to Transcribing and Editing Oral History Interviews.”

The largest, and possibly the first, project of the Oral History Program was to document ongoing and recent events around the desegregation of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. This project was conceived broadly, and included the collection of a significant body of small publications and clippings related to desegregation both locally and nationally. Around this same time, the program also conducted a series of 18 interviews with University Historian Elmer Louis Keyser on a range of topics related to GW history.

This first GW Oral History Program program ended in the early 1980s, having failed to secure grant funding for additional projects, including one on DC’s Wolf Trap Theater.

Contemporaneously with this oral history program, a Medical Center Oral History Committee was formed which identified, supervised, and collected oral histories from faculty, staff, and alumni of the George Washington University Medical Center. This program also ended by the mid 1980s.

In 1988, with the creation of a formal University Archives, University Archivist G. David Anderson began to conduct additional oral histories with the goal “To broaden and enrich the archival record of the University, supplementing the written record…. by recording on tape the recollections, impressions, attitudes and feelings of those associated with The George Washington University.”

Other oral history special projects have included interviews with Foggy Bottom residents to coincide with the 200th anniversary of GW’s presence in the neighborhood, and lengthy series of interviews with retiring GW Presidents Lloyd H. Elliot and Stephen J. Trachtenberg.


26.5 Linear Feet (11 document boxes, 1 slim document box, 7 cassette tape boxes, 9 record center cartons, and digital objects.)

Language of Materials



The George Washington University Oral History Program was begun by Mary Jo Deering and others in the early 1970s. Since that time, oral histories have been conducted by a number of individuals and projects represented in this collection. This collection consists primarily of oral histories conducted by or about George Washington University, although it also contains administrative files related to the oral history programs, and a significant amount of documentary material on school desegregation and the Rosemary Hills controversy.

Collection Organization

Organized into five series: Rosemary Hills school integration oral history and documentation project, George Washington University oral histories, Medical Center Oral History Committee, Foggy Bottom oral histories, and Miscellaneous oral histories and administrative files.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains audio recordings that are currently only stored on cassette or reel-to-reel tapes. Researchers who wish to access these recordings may be required to pay for their digitization, and will be provided with access to the digitized version. Please contact the Public Services Coordinator and Outreach Librarian at for additional information about this process.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Acquisition Information

Whenever it is known, acquisition data is included at the series or item level.

Processing Information

This collection was significantly re-organized in 2017. At that time, series structure and numbers, as well as most box numbers were changed, as the collection was organized for the first time by project and interview, rather than physical carrier. Non-oral history materials, particularly recordings of GW-related events, were removed from the collection, as were duplicate transcriptions.

Guide to the Special Collections Research Center oral history collection, 1972-2016
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America