Oral Histories at the NHA Research Library

The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) houses several hundred recordings of oral histories, both in audio and visual formats.

A few were recorded as early as the 1930s, for the Linguistic Atlas of New England. There are also recordings made by Henry Coffin Carlisle in the 1950s and 1960s, interviews performed by local high school classes (the Nantucket Experience class) in the 1980s, professional interviews performed by oral historians funded by an Axe-Houghton grant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and tapes made by professional oral historian Nancy Newhouse in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Recordings of interviews and group discussions (“gams”) continue to come in through many venues.

Thanks to two Community Preservation Community grants, the NHA has had digitized most of the audiotaped oral history interviews in our collections. The interviews were digitized by Safe Sound Archive, and the NHA now has each one in three digitized formats. The “Web version” is available for listening online, through the database.

The NHA has also had many of our collection of old home movies and videotaped oral histories digitized. Many of the old home movies are available for viewing on our YouTube channel.

Oral history is an important attempt to capture our community’s history before it disappears; hearing the voice and the actual stories of people helps to remind us that history is not remote, it is our lives, our past, and helps us to plan for our future. We welcome helping anyone who wants to do oral history interviews. We offer several commonly used oral history forms on our Web site, and can offer to be a permanent repository for any interviews made.