This video features an oral history from Barbara Hampton Givens, one of our first students. Givens shared her memories of organizing the first Rebel Yell, school dances, and other collegiate activities with the UNLV University Libraries Oral History Research Center. She graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1954 and enrolled in the first matriculated teacher’s program at the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada (now known as UNLV). She taught at Rancho High School and Chaparral High School for many years and in 1980 obtained her master’s in education from UNLV. Even though she is now retired, Givens teaches adult education classes on “Star Trek,” her favorite show, at UNLV’s Paradise Campus in her spare time. (Photos courtesy of University Libraries Special Collections and UNLV Photo Services.)
"Usually, I start off by saying, 'May I connect my recorder in this outlet?'" says Claytee White to the crowd that has gathered to see history literally in the making. So began the live oral history interview that White conducted with Carolyn and Oscar Goodman, the current and former Las Vegas mayors, respectively.
White is director of the Oral History Research Center (OHRC) within University Libraries and recorded their personal histories to mark the center's 10th anniversary.
Although every interview begins this same way, the thousands of oral histories the center has conducted and inherited over the years quickly diverge, taking listeners down unique paths in Southern Nevada's history that might have never otherwise been charted.
"People are interested in human stories -- from politicians to showgirls, pioneers, musicians, doctors, and many more," said Michelle Light, director of the Libraries' Special Collections Division, "and those are what we are preserving in Special Collections through the OHRC."
The task of preservation would be far more straightforward if digital technologies had always been accessible to the masses. However, while today's oral histories are recorded digitally at the center according to national preservation standards, interviews conducted in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were typically captured on fragile cassette tapes, which degrade with age and lose their durability each time they are played.
UNLV University Libraries transforms these short-lived cassettes into permanent digital records that can be accessed online as well as through printed transcripts.
"Special Collections has embarked on an ambitious preservation program to ensure we have access to these interviews long into the future," Light explained. "We are digitizing the cassettes, then having the recordings transcribed and edited. Soon, everyone will be able to find the transcriptions online and discover more about our region's past."
Oral histories represent just one way the UNLV University Libraries provide entree into Southern Nevada's yesteryears.
"These histories are extremely valuable," White said, "especially because a lot of people whose stories are preserved at UNLV are no longer with us."
Visit the UNLV University Libraries Oral History Research Center website to learn more about community resources.