History Museum Launches Oral History Project Online

By November 7, 2023November 30th, 2023Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (Nov 7, 2023) Local history comes to life through the voices and memories of individuals from the Los Altos community. Since the 1990s, dedicated volunteers at Los Altos History Museum have been conducting interviews with local residents, capturing their personal insights, experiences, and reflections on past events and the community’s history. Los Altos History Museum is proud to announce that it has made audio excerpts of 50 of these captivating oral histories available to the public for online listening.

“These oral histories are invaluable firsthand accounts of people and events that have significantly shaped our local community,” said Sophia Abarca, the Museum’s curator of collections. “Oral histories offer a unique opportunity to hear the authentic voices of our community members, their emotions, and vivid stories that may be missed in a written transcript.”

As part of the innovative “Museum Without Walls” initiative, Executive Director Dr. Elisabeth Ward has championed the effort to make the Museum’s rich Collections accessible to the general public online. This endeavor was made possible through the generous support of a $10,000 grant from the Farrington Historical Foundation. The Museum was able to collaborate with interns from San Jose State University to assist with abstracting, indexing, and creating audio excerpts. Former Oral Histories Committee Chair Suruchi Mohan played a pivotal role in fostering the relationship with San Jose State, significantly expediting the process.

Collecting oral histories is an ongoing effort by the Museum. To identify candidates for these insightful interviews, the Museum invites the public to nominate additional individuals with a connection to Los Altos, whether they have grown up in the area, currently reside or work there. Nominations can be submitted through a form available on the Museum’s website. The selections are carefully reviewed by the Oral History Committee, who then select candidates for interviews.

Trained volunteers conduct in-depth interviews with the selected individuals, delving into their achievements, experiences, challenges, life lessons, and their unique perspectives on life in the Los Altos area. Abarca utilizes Otter AI technology to transcribe the audio interviews into written form, followed by thorough editing. The transcripts are returned to the interviewees for final approval after potential additions of footnotes. The completed product is then added to the Museum’s extensive database.

Audio excerpts from the full interviews are now readily available for listening on the Museum’s website. To access the full audio recording or peruse the written transcript, the public is encouraged to make an appointment to visit the Museum’s collections.

Shorter excerpts from these compelling oral histories are also on display in the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition, “Making Connections: Stories from the Land.” Visitors can experience these stories by sitting in an enclosed globe chair to activate the recorded narratives.

To explore the newly-launched oral history excerpts and delve into the rich tapestry of Los Altos’ past, please visit losaltoshistory.org/OralHistories.

Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibitsstore and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.

The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.

Media Contact: Marketing@losaltoshistory.org
Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, eward@losaltoshistory.org