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Research Guides


Spoken Word

Oral Histories

To find published oral histories available in the UW Libraries use UW Libraries Search with the terms: oral history or oral histories or interviews. For example: interviews civil rights. This search will also find oral history transcripts housed in Special Collections.

To find oral histories on the web, format Google searches like these:  "oral history" subject term(s) and "oral history" subject term(s)

This is just a selected list of digitized oral histories available on the web.

Google Search Tips

Try searches like these in Google to find more sounds that you can use in your projects.

  • To search for lists of sounds in guides like this COM 460 class guide, search for:
    • podcast "public domain" sound
  • To search for actual sounds on non-commercial websites, try searches like these:
    • applause "sound effect" "public domain"
    • baseball cheering "sound effect" "public domain"


Yellowstone National Park Sound Library

National Park Service logo

The Yellowstone National Park Sound Library allows free use of their sound recordings.   

Western Soundscape

The Western Soundscape Archive features audio recordings from the eleven contiguous western states, as well as baseline sound monitoring in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The website offers sounds of more than 570 different Western bird species, all of the region's vocalizing frogs and toads, dozens of reptiles and more than 100 different types of mammals. Ambient recordings are also available.

Cornell Ornithology

Tweet. No, not that kind. Bird sounds. Find them @ Cornell U.  Cornell also provides the Wildlife Media ArchiveTerms of Use

UW Libraries Special Collections

Spencer G. Shaw; credit: UW iSchool

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the physical sound collection in Special Collections is unavailable.


Special Collections has many oral histories, interviews, and reminiscences that range from occupational histories of ordinary workers to those of politicians, activists, and organizational officers. They also house other formats like linguistic tapes and the tapes from the music department's performances. 

Some of their oral histories have been digitized and are available in the Many Paths, Many Voices: Oral Histories from the UW Special Collections.

Much of their materials need to be migrated to modern formats which takes time and money.  Look for "listening copies" which are available on CDs for you to use. For example, the Spencer Shaw papers include reel-to-reel recordings of the full run of his Story Hour on the Air radio program (1961-1968) from Long Island, NY.  It was essentailly the predecessor to the Reading Rainbow TV program.  Listening copies are available for two tapes:  5/15/1966 and 6/9/1968. 

Moving Images:

  • Digital Collections:  Special Collections has over 200 moving image collections, consisting of thousands of films and videotapes from 1915 to the present.  Short 3-5 minute selections from these moving image collections can be viewed as part of the UW Libraries Digital Collections
  • Viewing copies:  Some films and videotapes from the moving image collections are available for viewing in Special Collections without an appointment.  Consult the list of available viewing copies.  There are thousands of original moving image materials that have not been transferred or reformatted.  It may be possible to learn about these materials and view them (depending on condition) by appointment.  Contact the Film Archives Specialist for additional information about the full scope of the moving image collections.

Collection Guides Search (Finding Aids):

Select audio and moving image collections are described in these online guides.  Finding aids provide detailed descriptions of a collection, including background information about a collection and its context, identification of and description about the content, and restriction information.

Special Collections staff will match you with sound and video material relevant to your historical subject/topic.  Contact them for help