Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

The Houston Oral History Project- Houston Voices Its Past

Yesterday Mayor Bill White and Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library, launched the Houston Oral History Project (HOHP), a web-based archive that celebrates the many voices of Houston’s past.

Last summer Mayor White commissioned 100 initial interviews through the Houston Public Library. Well known civic, political and business leaders as well as witnesses to the historical events that shaped Houston were invited to visit libraries throughout the city to record their own brief recollections about life in Houston. There are currently 86 interviews out of an initially intended 100 available on the HOHP’s website. This website will provide easy access to students, historians and academics and all interviews will be transcribed and entered into the digital archives of the Houston Public Library System. Mayor White will be the final 100th oral history to complete this stage of this project.

“We wanted to capture these fascinating, eyewitness bits of our city’s history from those who helped make it what it is today,” said Mayor Bill White. “This is a project that, like the city itself, will only grow in value over time.”

This project was also combined with other existing oral histories compiled in the 1970’s and 1980’s for the Houston Public Library’s Oral History collection, which are being transcribed and added to the web-based collection. Approximately 300 additional hours of oral historiry interviews with artists, musicians, civil rights activists, politicians, and civic leaders who helped define the growth and history of the city are expected to be digitized within the next year and added to the collection.

David Goldstein who managed the project had this to say: “I think Houston is such a young city that the stories are still valid. When you want to go back 50, 60, 70 years in a lot of cities, all you can get is current events. But when you go back 60 or 70 years in Houston, you get formative events. You get the kind of things that changed us, the kind of things that made us the city that we are today because all that happened really within the last, during that time period. So you can talk to the people who actually helped to create the city that we know of today.”

Houston is a city that is built not just on land but on the experiences of its people. These stories are tangible, like our buildings and businesses, and I think that it’s significant that the mayor realizes this and I commend his vision in allocating the funds to pay for such a wonderful and educational project.

An additional great article about this project was written by Jack Willliams for KUHF.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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