Looking For Local History: Searching the Oral History Collection


In 2006, we launched a project to record and transcribe oral histories with more than 25 community members. At the end of the project, after staff members had an opportunity to review the transcripts, we realized the value of the information we’d gathered. It also made us curious about the 38 old recordings that were part of our collection, but which had never been accessed. These tapes had been part of the collection for at least 20 years, but we had no information on the contents. Many of the recordings were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with individuals who grew up in Issaquah during the 1890s-1930s. Thanks to a generous grant from 4Culture, we were able to convert the recordings into a stable format, transcribe the interviews, catalog the contents of the interview, and make the oral histories readily available to the public. 

We’re thrilled to begin sharing the contents of our oral history collection! There is a wealth of interesting stories and memories within the oral history collection  – each oral history transcript contains dozens of pages of memories about a variety of people and topics. 

So, how can you navigate this sea of information to find what you’re interested in? By using the Digital Collections search engine. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how:
Anytime you use the Digital Collections search function to locate specific people or information, the search pulls from all the online records – photographs, objects, letters and oral histories. You can limit your search to just the oral history collection, and easily find what you’re looking for, by following these steps:

  • In the collections field, enter Oral History Collection. Complete the keyword, subject or person field. You can complete as many fields as you need to in order to describe your search, but keep in mind that the more fields you complete, the narrower your search and the fewer your results. Let’s look for information about the rodeo within the oral histories.

  • There is only one oral history that contains information about the rodeo, an oral history with Walt Seil. Within the catalog record you’ll find a multimedia link called “Transcript”. Follow this link to view the transcript.
  • Once you’ve opened the transcript (which requires the Adobe Reader program), use your browser’s search function to find the word rodeo within the transcript.

  • From this screen, you can also print out or save a copy of the transcript.
Or maybe you’re just in the mood to read one person’s story. If you want to read a specific oral history, choose from the oral history directory https://issaquahhistory.org/learn/oral-history-directoryand select the person whose history you would like to read. In the future, the directory will include basic biographical information about each subject.