Oral Histories


Oral Histories are a key component in helping members of our community to record their stories. Eye-witness accounts of what we’ve seen and experienced provide a valuable resource to researchers and future generations to understand our past and how we arrived where we are today.

What is oral history?  When you record your memories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered life in metropolitan Washington DC, you are a narrator of our history.  Narrators come from all ethnic, religious, sexual, political, economic, racial, social, and other backgrounds.  And everyone has a story to tell.  When all the stories are collected together, we have a portrait of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered life in our area.

What do I say?    All you have to do is talk.  In any language or style.  Our volunteers help you get started and help keep you on track.  Most tapings last between 30 and 60 minutes, but you decide how long you want to talk–and what you want to tell us.  Talk about coming out, about events you have attended, about organizations you joined or supported, about people you’ve known and clubs you went to, about how you met people, how you were treated at work, at home, in public, etc.  You control the content of your story and the memories you add to the The Rainbow History Project Oral History Collection.   We hope you will choose to share your memories with us, your contemporaries and future generations.  Let them all know what it was like to be you.

Who can hear what I say?  Your story joins all the other stories in the collection.  We index it, copy it (so it doesn’t get lost), and look after it.  People can come and listen to the tapes.  But you choose whether your name is used, or an alias, or no name at all. Each narrator fills out a release form on which you can say what restrictions you want to put on use of the oral history tape-even whether we put it online or not!  We respect your conditions on sharing your stories, but want them to be part of Our Story.

Collecting Oral Histories

We have already lost too many community memories to illness and death.  The oral history collection keeps us from losing more by preserving individuals’ memories on tape.  Often these are memories that aren’t represented in archival collections. Share your story with your community.  Get in touch with us to schedule a time and place to narrate your oral history.  

I’ve already been interviewed–would you like a copy?  If you have been interviewed and would like to donate a copy to us, we would be glad to receive it. If you have materials of yourself, or someone else in the community talking about their own history, it would be a great addition to the collection.

Can I interview someone?  We are always looking for volunteers to help with the interviews.  We can provide some training and guidance in setting up the process, forms, and even lend equipment.  If you don’t know anyone to interview, we can match you with someone as well. 

Am I eligible to be interviewed?  ANYONE in our community is eligible to record their story.  Whatever you have seen or been part of as a member of the GLBT communities of greater Washington DC area is important for the Rainbow History Project.

Using The Oral History Collection

oral histories thumbnail We are constantly collecting more oral histories and working to make them available through indexing, cataloging, and copying.  All interviews and their themes are described  in the online collections catalog.  Due to restrictions placed by the narrators, only some of the oral histories have been digitized – for access to any file, please contact the Rainbow History Project directly (info@rainbowhistory.org).

Enter the collection.