Oral Histories

Established in January 2019, the Oral History Unit gathers oral histories from around the state in coordination with department goals and campaigns.

Current Projects: She Changed the World

Current Projects: She Changed the World

The unit’s initial project will feature North Carolina women past and present who have achieved amazing things in multiple disciplines to help make the world a better place. The project is one component of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ “She Changed the World: NC Women Breaking Barriers” campaign, which runs through November 2020.

She Changed the World Q&A

Who qualifies to be a narrator for this project?

In order to participate in the oral history project, women must meet the following criteria:


  • Narrators must currently live in the state of North Carolina
  • Narrators must be born in or spent formative time in North Carolina (a county can “claim” them)


  • Narrators must have done the bulk of the work they are recognized for in North Carolina

Narrators must have made (or be making) notable strides and/or had significant impacts in/on one or multiple of the following fields:

  • Government/Politics
  • Education
  • STEM
  • Culture
  • Athletics
  • Activism
  • Entrepreneurship



  • Narrators must be willing to transfer copyright of the interview and allow unrestricted access to their interview in the State Archives.
  • Narrators must be able to sit for long-form interview (which can be done in multiple sessions if need be) before the conclusion of the project in November 2020.
  • Narrators must provide the State Archives with a photo to be included with the oral history collection OR be willing to have a photo taken by Archives Staff for that purpose.

Please Note: State Archives Staff reserves the right to accept or reject any suggestions for potential narrators at their discretion.

How and where will the interviews be conducted?

Interviews will be recorded using digital audio recorders. In order to achieve quality sound recording, the interview must be conducted in a quiet, private space. It is also important that the narrator is comfortable during the interview and that the interview location is convenient for both narrator and interviewer. Interviews may be recorded at the narrator’s home or place of business or at a local library, historical society, etc., if the location meets the criteria provided above.

How long will the interviews be?

The length of the interviews will vary depending on the narrator, but typically interviews will average 1 – 2 hours. Multiple sessions can be arranged if necessary.

Who will conduct the interviews?

Interviews will be conducted by the Oral Historian, other department staff, or volunteers specifically recruited and trained for this project.

Why do you want a photo?

A visual element will help the audience connect to the person telling the story. It may be included in the online record for the interviews, used for marketing, social networking, etc. The emphasis will be on the audio and the story itself, but an image will connect a human face to the narrator’s voice.  

Do you want any other materials?

If you have archival materials (letters, photos, diaries, etc.) that relates to your story we may be interested in including those in our Collection. Please visit this page for more information.

What will you do with the interviews?

As noted above, this series of interviews will form a collection that will be housed at the State Archives and made accessible for generations to come – both online and onsite in the Archive’s Search Room. This collection can be used by educators and students, researchers, and the general public. The interviews may also be used internally by the various divisions of the DNCR for exhibits, promotion, public programming, etc.

Specifics for how the interviews will be made accessible are currently unavailable but details will be forthcoming.

How does the Oral History Project fit in with DCNR’s overall “She Changed the World” campaign?

The Oral History Project is one component of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ “She Changed the World: NC Women Breaking Barriers” campaign. The campaign focuses on North Carolina women past and present who have achieved amazing things in multiple disciplines to help make the world a better place. It was designed to be inclusive and features a diverse range of North Carolina women and their accomplishments. Like all DNCR campaigns, it will include a range of activities, including educational events, content and social media marketing, special events and reenactments, exhibitions (permanent and traveling), programming at DNCR sites and divisions, and strategic partnerships across the state. For more information about the campaign, visit the Department’s website.

How do I nominate myself or someone to be interviewed?

If you think you or someone you know would be a good fit for the project please fill out this brief online survey.

You can also contact the oral historian, Ellen Brooks, at ellen.brooks@ncdcr.gov or (919) 814-6847.


Reference Services and Access

Reference Services and Access

One of the things that makes oral history valuable is that it brings diverse voices into the historical context. Narrators share their experiences of historic events and topics and no two stories are alike. Just as the Oral History Unit strives to include a multitude of narratives, the State Archives aims to make these resources available as widely as possible.

Because the Oral History Unit is still very new, details about reference and access are currently unavailable. But the objective is to work within the parameters of the current department infrastructure to make it possible for the general public to search for and access oral histories online. Some resources will also be available in the Search Room at the State Archives.

Work with Us

Work with Us

Consulting for oral history projects

To help with project planning or to help get your project off the ground, the Oral History Unit can provide the following:

  • Interview training (how to conduct interviews, develop good questions, create a workflow)
  • Equipment recommendations
  • Non-legal advice on copyright and legal releases
  • Guidance on preservation and storage standards
  • Guidance on methods of access

To request a consultation, contact the oral historian.

Partnering with SANC as an official repository for your current/ongoing project

The SANC would be honored to be considered as the formal repository for materials that your project produces. Generally speaking, partnering with the State Archives in this capacity will mean that SANC is agreeing to preserve and store your oral history interviews according to accepted professional archival standards and to provide access to these interviews via the regular access avenues that the State Archives uses. In order to agree to partner as a repository for a current or ongoing project, SANC considers three important factors:

  1. Does the project/collection fit the State Archives Special Collections Section collecting scope?
  2. What rights will the State Archives be given to the materials?
  3. Does the State Archives have the capacity to maintain this collection? Will the material be formatted to meet State Archives standards?

The process for partnering should begin with a conversation with the oral historian about the project proposal (for project planning, we highly recommend that the project lead(s) review these Guidelines and Recommendations for Oral History Projects. Based on that initial conversation, the oral historian may suggest drafting a partnership agreement. This document will outline the purpose of the project and what each member of the partnership is committing to. These agreements will vary from project to project, with projects requiring various levels of interaction from SANC staff.

Donating completed interviews/collections to the SANC OH Unit

If you are looking for a repository for your already completed interview(s) or collection(s) please consider the State Archives. The State Archives’ decision to accept donated materials is based on the same three factors listed above: Does the project/collection fit the State Archives Special Collections Section collecting scope?; What rights will the State Archives be given to the materials?; Does the State Archives have the capacity to maintain this collection?; and Will the material be formatted to meet State Archives standards?

The process to donate your materials begins with a conversation with the oral historian in which you will be asked to describe your interview(s)/collection(s). Based on that initial conversation, the oral historian may ask you to fill out a form that describes your potential donation in detail. With the detailed information about the materials, the Oral Historian will verify that the donation meets SANC standards and is suitable for acceptance into the State Archives collection. If the material is deemed suitable, both parties will sign a deed of gift.



If you have questions or would like more information about the State Archives Oral History Unit, contact Ellen Brooks, ellen.brooks@ncdcr.gov or (919) 814-6847