Oral History program collects Illinois stories

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SPRINGFIELD-For almost ten years, the Oral History program at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library has collected the stories of people who made and lived Illinois history.

“Our mission is Illinois history, writ large,” said Mark DePue, who directs the program. “We record people’s stories, firsthand accounts of historical events, or their interpretation of their own life events, to preserve them for posterity.”

Those firsthand accounts are lightly edited, then transcribed and made available online. You can find the full collection here.

“You preserve the individual’s personality and you absolutely preserve their story. You don’t tinker with the story at all,” DePue said.

Among the program’s projects is Illinois Statecraft, which compiles interviews with Illinois politicians, aides, lobbyists, journalists and others.

“I don’t know that there’s anybody who’s doing anything as thorough as we are in trying to collect the stories of Illinois politics, and there’s a lot to talk about in Illinois politics,” DePue said.

Along with those stories, the Oral History program has also collected interviews with veterans, farm families and others.

“I have to say, the veterans are my favorites, because the stories they tell are things you don’t hear,” said volunteer Patty Maynor. “A lot of heartache, a lot of emotion.”  

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