© 2021 Buncombe County Special Collections. All rights reserved.

Oral History Resources

Why Oral History?

"You don't have to be famous for your life to be history." -Nell Sigmon

The words above serve as the unofficial motto of the Southern Oral History Program, a project that has inspired and guided the development of Buncombe County Public Libraries' oral history collecting initiatives.

History doesn't just live in public records, letters, maps, or photographs. Many people aren't well-represented in documented history, especially those that have been historically excluded from power or property.

Oral histories gives people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words and allow their voices to endure through times. Oral histories fill in the gaps of the historical record, and deepen our comprehension of the past and present by showing us how lives are experienced on an individual level.

Through conducting, facilitating, and collecting oral histories, we hope to help bond generations, build understanding, and strengthen community.

Oral History Backpack Loan Program

You can now check out an oral history backpack from Buncombe County Public Libraries!

Call your local library or 828-250-4740 to request a backpack. You will receive a phone call when the backpack is ready to be picked up. There is no cost to borrow a backpack!

Your oral history backpack will include everything you need (and more) to record a successful oral history interview, and (if you choose) to donate the recording to a collection where it can be made available to the public and preserved for future generations. Donating your oral history recording is not a requirement of checking out a backpack. Accepted donations must meet specific donation conditions and criteria; see "Donating Oral History Recordings" below.

Borrowing Rules and Procedures

  • Only one backpack may be checked out per household at a time.
  • Borrowers must be 18 years or older, with a Buncombe County library card in good standing.
  • The loan period is four weeks.
  • Backpacks can be picked up at any Buncombe County library.
  • Backpacks must be returned during normal library operating hours, either inside or using curbside service. NO OUTSIDE DROP BOX returns.
  • Files must be saved by the borrower before returning. All data on returned devices will be deleted and may not be recovered.
  • Backpacks will be considered lost when 10 days overdue. The charge for lost items is: voice recorder $100; backpack $30; headphones $20; microSD card, adapters, windscreen, or hard-shell cases $10 each.

Forms and Documents

For borrowers:

For librarians: 

For donors:

Donating Oral History Recordings

Donating your oral history recordings helps ensure that the information you've collected is available to the public for generations to come, helping us all better understand our shared history.

Buncombe County Special Collections will only collect oral histories that align with our collection policies and include the following: 

While not required, finalized, narrator-approved transcripts are appreciated.

Potential donors should contact us at packnc@buncombecounty.org before donating.

Oral histories often discuss vulnerable topics and personal information. Recorded parties may choose to impose temporary restrictions on access to protect their own privacy, may choose to use pseudonyms or otherwise anonymize their interview, or may redact portions of the interview. We ask that donors edit interviews as necessary before donating them (audio as well as transcript, if applicable).

It is the donor's responsibility to communicate to collection stewards about any restrictions, redactions, or anonymization required for interviews to be made public. As a public library, we do not accept donations of interviews that will be indefinitely or permanently closed to the public.

Similar Projects and Inspiration

The direct inspiration for this project is "Archivist in a Backpack," a program of the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Backpack contents and documents are largely modified versions of the resources generously made available through UNC, such as the UNC Chapel Hill Practical Guide to Oral History.

Additional credit is due to the following projects that have inspired BCSC's efforts: