Centre County Launches Oral History Survey

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

“Recollections: The Oral History of Centre County” is a special project of the Centre County Library. It is designed to collect and preserve local history as experienced by the people who have lived and worked in the area. The primary sources of information are tape-recorded interviews with area residents who are willing to share their recollections of the past.

Oral history is an increasingly popular method for preserving historical data, stories, and traditions that enrich our past. It differs from the conventional study of history in that it often relies on the memories and experiences of the “average person” rather than concentrating only on important persons and events. The focus on the general population permits the preservation of valuable aspects of the past that might otherwise be forgotten.

A comprehensive oral history of Centre County has not yet been done. It is for this reason that the “Recollections” project was created. The goal of the project is to preserve as much of the rich heritage of the county as possible within the limits of the staff and time. Among the areas stressed are the cultural and traditional aspects of county life, the history of local business and industry, and the “people’s eye” view of major events of the past. All regions of the county will be included and as many people as possible will be interviewed.

When the project is complete the library will house a collection of first-person accounts of topics of historical interest. They will add meaning and understanding to existing facts and chronology of county history for current and future generations.

Tape-recorded interviews are being conducted with individuals who are knowledgeable in some aspect of coun­ty life. Although these conversations tend to cover a range of topics, each focuses on one subject in particular, such as the Grange Fair, the Bellefonte Academy, or the coal mines near Philipsburg. In addition to recalling facts and events, participants will be asked to share their personal attitudes and perceptions toward these events. It is in this way that oral history is able to capture the spirit and mood of the past.

After the interview is complete the tapes will be transcribed and indexed. Subject to the approval of the person interviewed, they will be included in the library collection. The contribution of appropriate visual aids such as photographs or newspaper clippings is encouraged to supplement the interview material. Facilities are available for duplieating original materials that are of personal value to the owner.

The ultimate success of “Recollections” rests on the residents of Centre County, for without their contributions there could not be a project. Everybody has a story to tell and these stories must be told now. You, or someone you know, has had first-hand experience with a part of county life that no longer exists. Please share this knowledge! If these recollections are not preserved today they will be lost forever.

The “Recollections” staff is trying to contact as many people as possible but they need your help. If you would like to participate or recommend another individual you are encouraged to call the library. With your cooperation the recollections of our citizens will contribute greatly to in­creasing the quality and quantity of historical sources that reveal the proud spirit of life in Centre County. For further information contact: Sandy Romanow, Project Director, Centre County Library, 203 N. Allegheny St., Bellefonte 16823. Telephone: 814-355-1516.