CGP Community Stories collects and preserves oral histories from the residents of Central New York State. These histories, collected by the Cooperstown Graduate Program, create a rich archive of local history that tracks significant changes in the rural communities of New York over time. Visitors to the Community Stories website can explore themes such as environmental history, farming, tourism, rural healthcare, folklife, and social activism. We are also committed to creating public programs that use oral history to foster dialogues on social issues both in classrooms and the broader community. 

What is Oral History?

An oral history is a recorded interview between an interviewer and narrator that preserves the narrator’s personal recollections from historical events or everyday life. As a primary source, oral histories offer an individual’s firsthand perspective on the past. Because it is a spoken interview, the narrator’s memories are kept alive in their own voice, creating an additional depth to the history that is shared. Oral histories may shed light on significant events, communities, time periods, ways of life, or cultural practices known to the narrator. 


Why Collect Oral Histories?

Oral histories matter because diverse viewpoints matter. Collecting oral histories allows us to create an archive of memory outside the traditional historical record, where viewpoints from the most privileged are overrepresented. Oral histories become increasingly crucial when addressing gaps or intentionally censured narratives left in written records of the past. They also allow us to learn about the past in ways that differ from text-based primary sources. The histories on CGP Community Stories include diverse narratives from farmers, healthcare workers, professors, and human rights activists. 

Project History

Students in the Cooperstown Graduate Program began collecting oral histories from residents in Central New York in the 1960s. Since then, our collection has grown to the existing archive of over 2,000 recordings. The collection also includes complete transcripts, photographs, and videos of many of our narrators. 

The oral history project started under the direction of Louis C. Jones, founder of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and Bruce Buckey, folklorist and director of the American Folk Culture program. As the program has evolved, interviews are now conducted by students in the program’s history track, as part of their Research and Fieldwork course. This long-term project encourages students to explore the untold histories of New York State and preserve narratives of life beginning in the early twentieth century. Gathering and sharing stories of many different people—especially working people—provides inspiration for our ongoing oral history project. 

In 2008, the CGP Community Stories website launched in order to provide easier access to this rich historical archive. The recordings uploaded to the website provide quality sound recordings of the oral history interviews, along with metadata tags to assist researchers in browsing the collection. As the web expands and becomes a more common search tool, we strive to find a balance between open access to information and protecting those who have generously shared their stories with us. 


User Agreement


The Cooperstown Graduate Association holds copyright to most images, audio and video recordings and interview transcripts on http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org.  

Material from this collection may be used for educational and other non-commercial purposes without the written permission of the Cooperstown Graduate Association. "Fair Use" criteria of Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 must be followed. Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute (Title 17 of the U.S. Code), it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. It is the researcher’s responsibility to determine copyright or other use restrictions and receive permission from third parties when necessary. 

Audio recordings, images, and interview transcripts from the Cooperstown Graduate Program archive are provided strictly for educational and research purposes. Researchers do not have the right to copy, make a profit from, or publish the oral history materials located on this site. Beyond fair use as defined above, express permission is required from the Cooperstown Graduate Association for use of all materials provided on http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org, including images, audio and video recordings and interview transcriptions. 

Whenever using, quoting, and publishing any materials produced by the Cooperstown Graduate Association, scholarly conventions require full source citation. The Cooperstown Graduate Association recommends the following format, or an equivalent format conforming to discipline-specific citation standards: 

[Name of Interviewee], [Title of Interview], [Name of Interviewer], [Date of Interview], CGP Community Stories, Cooperstown Graduate Association. 


Oral History Usage Guidelines


Requests should include the name of the interviewee and the title of the interview(s) and/or transcript(s) you are requesting, as well as the interview’s identifier. Note whether you are requesting an image, audio recording, or interview transcript. Additionally, please indicate whether the material is to be quoted, cited, or reproduced in facsimile.  


John York, "Tim Iversen, November 21, 2021," in CGP Community Stories, identifier 21-016, https://exhibits.library.oneonta.edu/s/cgpcommunitystories/document/21-016 


To request full access to an oral history interview in our collection, please contact: 

William Walker 

Associate Professor of History 

Cooperstown Graduate Program 

State University of New York at Oneonta 





Sources to browse:

Oral History Association

Oral History in the Digital Age

Step-by-Step Guide to Oral Histories

American Folklore Society