South Dakota Oral History Center moves to I.D. Weeks Library

The South Dakota Oral History Center is finding a new home at the I.D. Weeks Library on the campus of the University of South Dakota.

The center holds thousands of recorded interviews dating back to the 1950s that document personal experiences from the people who lived the history of the Northern Plains and the state of South Dakota. About half of the interviews preserve Native American memories and experiences from the 1890s to the present.

“This move will stabilize the future of the collection and make sure these unique recordings are here to benefit future generations,” said Dan Daily, dean of libraries at USD.

Currently the Oral History Center is housed in Dakota Hall as part of the Institute of American Indian Studies. For the past three years a federal grant has paid for workers to transfer the interviews from magnetic tape to digital recordings and to create a catalog of the contents.

That grant is ending, but Daily says he will continue to seek new grants to continue the work on the collection.

For now he plans to add a staff member who will work with the South Dakota Oral History Center as well as other special collections in the library archives. Library staff also will continue the work of preserving and cataloging the interviews.

“I envision that SDOHC will continue to work with academic departments collecting and preserving interviews and making them accessible for research on South Dakota, the Northern Plains and Native Americans,” Daily said.

Library archives at USD already contain significant manuscript collections of Native Americans such as artist Oscar Howe and USD alumnus Chuck Trimble. The I.D. Weeks building provides a climate-controlled environment for the master tapes of the oral history collection, which is not available in Dakota Hall.

The South Dakota Oral History Center has existed for more than four decades. It includes six collections of recordings:

  • The American Indian Research Project, begun in 1967 and containing recordings of Native Americans from the Northern Plains.
  • The South Dakota Oral History Project, featuring recordings from every county in South Dakota on a broad range of topics.
  • The Stanislaus Maudlin Collection, recordings by Father Stanislaus Maudlin of the Blue Cloud Abbey.
  • The John S. Painter Collection, recordings collected between the 1950s and the 1980s.
  • The James Emery Collection, including Native American music, dating back to the early 1950s.
  • The Lindley Collection, recordings that detail the lives of people in the Northern Plains.
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