Since 1994, the Rutgers Oral History Archives has achieved an impressive record of success with more than 2,000 interviews conducted to date. Every year, the staff conducts oral histories with nearly 100 additional individuals.
Days of research and preparation precede each oral history. The in-person interviews are recorded in audio, and then, transcribed. A basic transcript is produced, then, reviewed by a seasoned ROHA staff member for accuracy. The material discussed in the interview is verified and clarified through annotations to the greatest extent possible.
Transcripts are then reviewed by the participant for accuracy and to ensure that no harmful or embarrassing material is made public. Interviewees are encouraged to correct only minor errors of fact or grammar. We seek to assure participants that they have ultimate ownership of their life story. Each interview is kept confidential until the participant agrees to its release.
The final version is posted to the ROHA's website and the interview materials are placed in the Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives. Depending upon the interviewee's wishes, not all completed transcripts are released immediately for public research. The interview participants receive copies of both the audio recording and transcripts.
The ROHA program features a robust undergraduate education component. Each spring semester, Shaun Illingworth, Director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives, offers an oral history class entitled "Introduction to Oral History." Over thirty undergraduates aid in conducting oral histories and processing the interview transcripts every year.
Each semester, the Public History Internship Program allows two to three History majors the opportunity to participate in the administration of the program as staff members for a semester. These undergraduates delve into the broader aspects of the program, including oral history techniques, archival management and event planning.
The Rutgers Oral History Archives, one of the first oral history programs on the Internet, has offered its digital holdings to patrons around the globe since 1996. The site currently features over 32,000 pages of fully transcribed, text-searchable material and over 1,200 oral history transcripts, holdings which earned it the prestigious ranking of #15 in the world by Oral History Online. In their 2003 book, World War II on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites, historians J. Douglas Smith and Richard Jensen gave the website five out of five stars for content. They remarked that, "The interviews are superb, by far the best available on the web, and contain a wealth of information that places the war within its broader historical context."
Upcoming: On February 25, 2021, Kate Rizzi is hosting a virtual oral history training workshop for the Cap & Skull Alumni Society of Rutgers.
ROHA staff person Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, regularly attends meetings of Veteran Alumni of Rutgers University (VARU), most recently on February 22, 2021.
Over the course of 2020-2021, Kate Rizzi and Shaun Illingworth have consulted on oral history methodology with School of Arts and Sciences undergraduates and graduate students, along with staff and faculty members in the Departments of History, American Studies, Latino and Caribbean Studies, English, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Religion.
Kate Rizzi has worked with community partners throughout the state, including the Mountain Lakes Historical Society, Somerset County Historical Society, Northern New Jersey Community Foundation and Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
On December 3, 2020, the Rutgers Oral History Archives hosted the third annual John W. Chambers II Oral History Graduate Fellowship Lecture. The event featured Ph.D. candidate Carie Rael giving the lecture called "'I don't see this happening anywhere else': Reflections from the Grassroots in the Anaheim/Santa Ana Region." The virtual event was co-sponsored by the Rutgers Living History Society, Department of History and the Office of the Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
In partnership with the Queens Public Library, Shaun Illingworth gave a series of virtual lectures in the fall of 2020 as a part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program, analyzing Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.
Shaun Illingworth, in partnership with the Indian American Club in Monroe Township, hosts an ongoing lecture series focusing on the oral histories of foreign-born Americans in New Jersey, with the most recent event occurring on October 13, 2020.
On September 23, 2020, Shaun Illingworth was a guest speaker in a School of Arts and Sciences Honors College class.
On August 25, 2020, Kate Rizzi presented a workshop entitled "Testimony and Trust" at the Graduate Public Humanities Virtual Workshop Series, sponsored by the Center for Cultural Analysis and the School of Arts and Sciences Dean of Humanities.
On February 25, 2020, Kate Rizzi appeared in the "History Workshop" Class of Anthony Dibattista to discuss oral history methodology and share excerpts from oral histories conducted by the Rutgers Oral History Archives.
On February 22, 2020, Shaun Illingworth delivered an oral history training workshop to the Saratoga County History Roundtable in Saratoga Springs, New York.
On February 4, 2020, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, gave a presentation to the staff of Horses For Forces, a veterans’ service organization in Long Valley that provides equine therapy to veterans.
On December 14, 2019, Caitlin Wiesner delivered the second annual John W. Chambers II Oral History Graduate Fellowship Lecture, entitled "Breaking the Silence, Healing Themselves: Black Women’s Stories from the Anti-Rape Movement." The event was sponsored by the Rutgers Oral History Archives, along with the Rutgers Living History Society, Department of History and the Office of the Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
On November 11, 2019, the Rutgers Oral History Archives launched the ROHA Podcast, with the first episode commemorating Veterans Day. Written and narrated by Shaun Illingworth and Zach Batista, SAS '19, "A Veterans Day Account of World War II" features the story of Rutgers alumnus Edwin Kolodziej (1924-2018). This podcast draws on many excerpts from Kolodziej's oral histories to reveal, in his own words, what life was like for a combat infantryman during the Second World War. (Click on the Podcast tab on the main menu to listen.)
On November 11, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, attended the New York City Veterans Day Parade along with the Rutgers Veterans Services offices. Don gave a presentation and distributed pre-interview surveys to attendees.
On November 1, 2019, Lauren Smith, SAS '19, and Kate Rizzi hosted the "Women in New Jersey Exhibit" at New Jersey Women Make History, sponsored by the New Jersey Historical Commission, at Douglass Residential College.
On October 25, 2019, Zach Batista, SAS '19, and Kate Rizzi hosted the "Oral Histories of Livingston College Exhibit" at the Livi 50: Celebrating 50 Years of Livingston College. The event was sponsored by Rutgers University Libraries and held at James Dickson Carr Library on Livingston Campus.
On September 28, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, gave a presentation on the importance of oral history and the efforts made by ROHA to document the histories of military veterans at the September 2019 meeting of the Air Force Association Chapter 195.
On September 25, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, gave a presentation at the fall meeting of the Veterans Alumni of Rutgers (VARU) meeting.
On June 15, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, attended the Wings & Wheels event, in Teterboro, New Jersey. The expo was hosted by the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame.
On May 21, 2019, Kate Rizzi gave a presentation entitled "Oral Histories of American Veterans" at the Hillsborough Library, Somerset County Library System, to commemorate Memorial Day.
On March 12, 2019, Shaun Illingworth appeared in Dr. Belinda Davis' class to analyze oral history and activism.
On April 27, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, Lauren Lauren Smith, SAS '19, and Zach Batista, SAS '19, hosted a ROHA table at Rutgers Day. Donald, Lauren and Zach spoke to students, alumni, and other attendees about ROHA and distributed pre-interview surveys and return envelopes.
On January 24, 2019, Donald Koger, SAS ’18 GSN ’21, gave a short presentation about ROHA in Dr. Steven Diner’s US Immigration History class.
On December 6, 2018, Kate Rizzi hosted a workshop entitled "Oral History and Activism" for the Public Engagement Workshop series, sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women.
On December 1, 2018, the Rutgers Oral History Archives hosted the inaugural John W. Chambers II Oral History Graduate Fellowship Lecture, featuring Ph.D. candidate Pamela Walker. In the lecture entitled "Down in the Delta: Oral Histories from a Hallowed Home," Walker discussed her oral history research in examining the relationship between motherhood, race, activism, and political consciousness in women's social movement networks in the 1960s. The event was co-sponsored by the Rutgers Living History Society, Department of History and the Office of the Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
On June 25, 2018, the Rutgers Oral History Archives hosted Congressman Frank Pallone on behalf of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. The event also featured Dr. Ellen McHale, Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society.
On February 24, 2018, the Rutgers Oral History Archives partnered with the New Brunswick Free Public Library, the New Brunswick African American Heritage Committee and Dr. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan, Director of Public History at Rutgers-New Brunswick, to collect oral histories, letters and photographs of African American community members.
On October 20, 2012, the Rutgers Oral History Archives was invited to speak to the 1st Cavalry Division Association, NY-NJ Chapter in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey where Nicholas Trajano Molnar and Jesse Bradell presented on ROHA's work and how the program's oral history resources are being used in the classroom.
On June 30, 2012, the Rutgers Oral History Archives participated in the World War II Veterans Roundtable at the North County Branch Library (Hunderdon County Library System) in Clinton, New Jersey. On April 24, 2012, ROHA presented at the Wyckoff Family YMCA's "Roll Call for All Veterans" in Wyckoff, New Jersey.
On December 7, 2011, a memorial service was held in Kirkpatrick Chapel to mark the seventieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Professor William O'Neill was the keynote speaker, with Professor John W. Chambers, II serving as master of ceremonies. Henry Bultman, Pearl Harbor survivor, and over a hundred veterans, faculty, and staff, were in attendance.
On Veteran's Day 2011, the Rutgers Oral History Archives organized a panel of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, and Iraq/Afganistan veterans to share their experiences, with over 150 undergraduates in attendence at Winants Hall.
In July 2011, Shaun Illingworth and Nicholas Trajano Molnar presented a workshop at the NJVVM. A lecture, "The Vietnam War from the Cold War Perspective" was given to Newark educators as part of the accompanying educational workshop.
On Veteran's Day 2005, "War, Image and Memory," a three-panel symposium organized by Dr. Fernanda Perrone, Archivist & Head, Exhibitions Program at SC/UA, and Shaun Illingworth, was held in the Pane Room at Alexander Library.
On Veteran's Day 2003, the ROHA program and the Rutgers University Libraries co-sponsored "Letters from the Front: World War II Correspondence Between Soldiers and their Families," a lecture by distinguished WWII and women's history scholar Dr. Judy B. Litoff. As part of the publicity for the event, members of the Rutgers community and the public were encouraged to donate their papers to the Special Collections and University Archives. Several material donors were honored during the program.
On December 7, 2001, a memorial service was held in Kirkpatrick Chapel to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Professor Emeritus Thomas Hartmann, a WWII US Marine Corps pilot, was the keynote speaker. Professor John W. Chambers, II, served as master of ceremonies. Other presenters included: Rutgers University President Francis L. Lawrence; Robert McCloughan, RC '42, and the Rutgers Alumni Glee Club; Bart Klion, RC '48, and Bert Manhoff, RC '48, co-chairs of the Alumni Coordinating Committee; Rev. John W. Berglund, RC '42; Rev. Wilbur Washington, RC '49; Sandra Stewart Holyoak, former director; Thomas J. Frusciano, University Archivist.
In 1996-97, Professor G. Kurt Piehler and his staff collaborated with the Rutgers Office of Radio and Television to produce an hour long program for the History Channel that drew upon the work of the Rutgers Oral History Archives. The program aired on the History Channel on Sunday, June 29, 1997.
In 2005, "Witnesses to War: Voices From the Rutgers Oral History Archives," opened in Alexander Library's Gallery '50, part of the Rutgers University Libraries, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Each display case highlighted the wartime experiences of an individual or family through the documents (diaries, letters, photographs, other memorabilia) that they created or utilized during the conflict. The exhibition's curators were Shaun Illingworth, Sandra Stewart Holyoak, Nicholas Trajano Molnar, and their undergraduate assistants.
In the Summer/Fall of 2002, the Morris Museum featured thirteen hours of audio clips from the ROHA's oral histories in its "Share Your Story: Reminiscences from New Jersey World War II Veterans" exhibition. The audio component, produced by Shaun Illingworth, assistant director, featured recollections of war workers, home front participants and veterans of every theater of war.
In 1995, in conjunction with the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance and through a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the Oral History Archives sponsored a series of conferences and an exhibit. The conferences included such topics as: The Morality and Ethnicity of Total War, The Legacy of the Holocaust for New Jersey and American Society, and The Impact of the Second World War on New Jersey. Alexander Library housed the five-month exhibit "Battlefields and Homefront: The Rutgers and New Jersey Experience During World War II."
Selected Works Featuring the ROHA Program
- Atkinson, Rick. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 . Little, Brown, 2003.
- Major Problems in American Military History, ed. by John Whiteclay Chambers, II, & G. Kurt Piehler. Houghton-Mifflin, Co., 1999.
- Parker, Matthew. Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II. Doubleday, 2004.
- Spector, Ronald H. At War, At Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the Twentieth Century. Viking, 2001.
- The Boys From New Jersey, ed. by Tom Kindre. Trafford Publishing, Co., 2004.
- Turner, Barry. Countdown to Victory: The Final European Campaigns of World War II . W. Morrow, 2004.
- Coffman, Edward M. "Talking about War: Reflections on Doing Oral History and Military History." The Journal of American History 87.2 (2000): 582-593.
- Floyd, Bianca P. "Bookmark: Rutgers Creates On-Line Archive of Oral Histories of World War II." Chronicle of Higher Education 46.11 (1999): A54.
- "Sites to See." American Heritage 51.8 (2000): 20.
- Smith, J. Douglas, and Richard Jensen. World War II on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites. Scholarly Resources, 2003. [Review]
- Sparrow, James T. "The Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II." The Journal of American History 89.4 (2003): 1631. [Review]