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Guide to the Oral History of the American Left Collection OH.002

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Paul Buhle, Jonathan Bloom, Michael Nash, unattributed Tamiment staff, and David A. Olson

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 01, 2023
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Amy C. Vo to change legacy description about the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II Edited by Rachel Mahre to reflect digitization of some audio materials. Edited by Anna Björnsson McCormick to correctly identify Grace Lee Boggs as an activist in the Black Power movement Edited by Maddie DeLaere to update titles and top containers for select audiocassettes.  , December 2020 , August 2021 , November 2021 , January 2023

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Unless otherwise noted, materials are open without restrictions. Any limitations on access, as stipulated in an interviewee's release form, are noted at the interview or series level.

Use Restrictions

Because of the assembled nature of this collection, copyright status varies across the collection. Copyright is assumed to be held by the original creator of individual items in the collection; these items are expected to pass into the public domain 120 years after their creation. Repository is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from this collection.

New York University holds any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) for the majority of the interviews in Series 1 of this collection. Unless otherwise noted, permission to publish or reproduce materials must be secured from the Tamiment Library. Interviews in Series 1 for which New York University does not hold rights are noted at the interview level. Any restrictions on use that the interviewer and interviewee agreed to in the interview's release form are also noted at the interview level.

Copyright ownership and use restrictions vary across Series 2-9. Please contact for more information.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Oral History of the American Left; OH 002; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Related Archival Materials

Guide to the Oral History of the American Left, edited by Paul Buhle and Jonathan Bloom, is cataloged with Tamiment Library's bibliographic collections and provides insight into the goals and considerations at OHAL's founding and a history of the collection up to 1984. The project's newsletter, filed with Tamiment Library's serials, similarly gives context for the creation and collection of OHAL's earliest materials.

Paul Buhle Papers (TAM 171)

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

From its inception, the Oral History of the American Left was an assembled collection with a diverse provenance. The majority of the interviews, particularly in Series I, were collected by the Oral History of American Left for deposit at the Tamiment Library. At the same time, OHAL solicited and accepted recordings from scholars, filmmakers, activists, and other likeminded individuals who were not affiliated with the project. OHAL staff actively took interviews between 1976-1985. The collection of interviews by OHAL and Tamiment Library continued through the late 2000s at a diminished pace. The collection also contains materials that were created or collected by the Tamiment Institute before the establishment of OHAL. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 1976.001, 2004.026, 2010.002, 2018.050, and 2018.072.

Processing Information

The Oral History of the American Left has seen many waves of processing since its founding in 1976. The two primary access tools resulting from the first wave of processing were indexes and Jonathan Bloom and Paul Buhle's Guide to the Oral History of the American Left, published in 1984. Discovery tools were updated as new tapes were added to the collection. A wide range of appraisal guidelines, arrangement strategies, and numbering schemes were deployed by the archivists working on the collection over the decades. At times, this created inconsistencies in collection management and description.

Digitization began in the late 2000s, employing outside vendors and NewYork University's Preservation Department. Transcription had occurred since the 1980s, and another batch of interviews was transcribed and edited in the early 2010s.

In 2012, efforts to complete the digitization were resumed in earnest, and digitization of Series I was completed in 2015. This push was supported by three grants from the Korein Foundation, and sustained use of New York University's in-house transfer capabilities for the transfer of OHAL materials.

In conjunction with the digitization, a serious effort was undertaken to consolidate physical control over Series I. Different generations of cassettes were stored in different locations throughout the library, and a major effort was undertaken to reconcile these materials and confirm that the library was digitizing the most complete versions of interviews. At the same time, a new online finding aid was written, consolidating legacy description from multiple sources, updating it to conform to modern archival standards, and creating new content. This was completed in 2015.

Less visibly, a major effort was undertaken to standardize the diverse naming conventions for digital surrogates from in the first wave of digitization projects. Files in the library's digital preservation repository we mapped and batch renamed for better control over digital assets. This too was completed in 2015.

In 2020, narrative description of the Karl Yoneda interview was edited to more accurately describe the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Researchers can access previous versions of the finding aid in our GitHub repository at

In 2023, a student worker edited top container numbers and added instances for one box of audiocassettes.