Allan Nevins founded the Oral History Research Office (now CCOH) to establish biographical interviewing as a key method of historical research. Early interviews focused on distinguished leaders in politics and government. Over time, the collection grew to include interviews in philanthropy, media, business, medicine, public health, the law, the arts, community history, and human rights, and has a continued commitment to documenting political events and their impacts. Our archive has been unique in the nation in that it has never been confined in its scope to one region or area of historical experience.
The Center has been instrumental in supporting both the national and international associations for oral history. For many years the Center was the headquarters for the Oral History Association, and each of its directors has served as president of that association. In 2008, the Center and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia collaborated to create the nation’s first master’s program in oral history, the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA), an interdisciplinary degree linking the humanities and the social sciences. Through our Annual Summer Institute, we consistently work with fellows from around the world.
Today, CCOH continues to be a laboratory for oral history practice and a center for education and outreach. Scholars, students, writers, documentary makers, advocates, and others come to CCOH from around the world to study, access the archives, and participate in educational programs.