The University of Wisconsin-Madison Oral History Project was established as part of the University History Project in 1971. Its initial charge was to interview prominent emeritus faculty members about their research and careers at the University. Over the years, the Project became a part of the UW Madison Archives, changed from a project to a program, and expanded its scope to include interviews with campus administrators, staff, and students as well as faculty. Taken individually, these interviews reflect the careers and interests of the interviewees; taken collectively they constitute a narrative of the development of the University over time. As such, they form an invaluable part of the historical record of the University in its over 160 years of existence.
The Oral History Program's collection--held at the UW Madison Archives--currently encompasses over 1,000 interviews (nearly 3,500 hours) touching on all aspects of the University's history. A significant portion of the total collection were conducted as a part of special series covering subjects such as the Teaching Assistants Strike of 1970, the UW Merger, the Arboretum, and printmaking at UW since World War II. Other significant historical themes run through many of the interviews, including the Depression, the return of the GIs after World War II, the protests against the Vietnam War, academic freedom, and gender and race issues.
Most of the interviews were conducted by campus oral historians Stephen Lowe (1971), Donna Taylor Hartshorne (1972-82), Laura Smail (1976-88), Barry Teicher (1989-2005), Sandy Pfahler (2005-2008), Robert Lange (2005-) and Troy Reeves (2007-).