Siuslaw Pioneer Museum’s Oral History Project Recordings Converted to CDs

The Siuslaw Public Library received 96 digital oral history recordings from the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum on April 11. In attendance at the presentation was, from left, Steve Skidmore, Jim Hays, Deb Lobey, Sharon Waite, Pat Rongey, Sandy Zinn, Alan Campbell, Meghan Spencer and Kevin Mittge. Photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News

April 21, 2023 — It began as an idea to compile a history of Florence and the Siuslaw Valley from “the old timers” in the area. The year was 1975. With a grant from the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Oregon, and financial contributions of community members, the idea began to materialize. Renowned poet and professor, Kim Stafford agreed to take on the year-long project of interviewing individuals from the area. A list of individuals was put together by the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum staff.

With tape recorder in hand, Stafford visited with folks throughout the area, in their homes, gardens, or wherever they were most comfortable. He didn’t ask a lot of questions, but chose to listen and allow them to reveal what they felt had been important to their lives and experiences. The cassette tapes were maintained by the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and a copy shared with the Siuslaw Public Library. And so began the museum’s Oral History Project. As the years followed, additional interviews were conducted by museum volunteers and the collection grew to more than 200 cassette tapes.

Fast forward to 2022 when an effort arose to preserve the historical value of these conversations as part of the museum’s collection. The project would require converting the relic tape recordings to audio CDs for preservation, better quality and ease of use. With a number of the tapes needing repair, along with the sheer volume of the project, the services of a professional were solicited. Alan Campbell of Alan Campbell Productions of Florence accepted the ambitious task. The conversion process required him to listen to each recording in order to stop and delicately repair various breaks in the now fragile tapes. The silver lining however, was an opportunity for Alan to hear his father, Louis, a former museum curator, conduct many of the interviews, which he had not previously heard.

Through the financial support from donors Suzanne Korosec, Merilee Mulvey, and Steve Skidmore, the conversion project was realized in January, 2023.

On April 11 the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum presented to the Siuslaw Public Library, copies of the entire CD collection of converted tapes, along with recent Oral History Project interviews. These CDs contain first-hand stories and experiences of our own community members.

The CDs are available for public review at both the museum’s William Kyle Research Library (Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m.) and the Siuslaw Public Library.

Tour the museum’s exhibits Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. and for more information on the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum visit /