Oral Histories

The Public Lands History Center has conducted a variety of oral history projects. These projects serve as documentation of a site or organization’s history or a specific event. They can often be combined with a final report or an administrative history to provide additional context and research. Below are descriptions of the oral history projects that the PLHC has conducted. Contact us to discover how we can partner with you on an oral history project.

Fort Collins Utilities Oral History Project

Partner: Fort Collins Utilities
Project Principal Investigator: Dr. Ruth Alexander
Researchers: Tristan Purdy (2019-2020), Craig Somers (2019-2020)
Timeline: 2019-2020
In 2019, Dr. Ruth Alexander of the Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University conducted a series of interviews with Owen Randall of the City of Fort Collins, Utilities. Randall began working for the organization in 1979 and retired as Chief Engineer in 2019. Across six interviews set in different locations associated with Utilities projects and facilities, Randall talks about the complexities of the water-supply and wastewater systems, as well as challenges, planning, maintenance, and construction over time. The interviews were transcribed by Phyllis Greenhill. All materials are digital only.
Fort Collins Utilities, City of Fort Collins, reached out to the PLHC before Owen Randall’s retirement, hoping to use oral history interviews to capture critical knowledge about the history of the water system in Fort Collins.  In addition to creating a valuable collection for researchers, Fort Collins Utilities will use the Randall interviews as a resource for public outreach and educating new staff in Utilities. With a significant number of retirements anticipated in the coming years, Fort Collins Utilities views the Randall interviews as a pilot project that could become a model for honoring and preserving the knowledge of other experts in the department.

Oral History and Irrigation Report

Partner: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Project Principal Investigator: Dr. Janet Ore
Researchers: Hannah Braun (2015-2016), Janell Nelson Byczkowski (2013-2014)
Timeline: 2013-

This project uses oral history to tell the story of water, ranching, and irrigation at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, connecting this story to the larger environmental history of ranching and water use in the West. The project will result in the recording and transcription of a half-dozen oral history interviews with area water users, a research report on the history of irrigation at Grant-Kohrs Ranch and its larger context in the U.S. West, including a summary of findings from the oral history interviews.

2013 Colorado Flood Oral History Project

Partner: Colorado Water Conservation Board
Additional Partner: Water Resources Archive, Morgan Library, Colorado State University
Project Principal Investigator: Dr. Ruth Alexander
Researchers: Naomi Gerakios Mucci (project lead), Zach Lewis, Tessa Moening, Mitchell Schaeffer
Timeline: 2014-2015

This project was a collaborative oral history involving the Public Lands History, the Water Resources Archive at CSU’s Morgan Library, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The PLHC collected, transcribed, and digitized thirty-one oral histories of individuals involved in the September 2013 floods throughout Northern Colorado. Most of these individuals were involved in addressing and responding to the flooding in a professional capacity, and included climate scientists, water and storm water managers, municipal and county administrators; engineers, emergency managers, search, rescue and recovery personnel; disaster relief personnel; and park managers. A final report summarized the team’s findings regarding the oral histories and how water and management professionals addressed the 2013 flood and lessons learned. The Water Resource Archive then compiled a finding aid for the collection, digitized the interviews and transcripts, and made the entire collection available to researchers and the public on their website.

Project Digital Collection: Guide to the Northern Colorado Flood Oral History Collection, Colorado State University Water Resources Archive.

Press Documents:
“The 2013 Colorado Flood Oral History Project” by Ruth M. Alexander, Colorado Water, November/December 2015, pages 29-31.
“University archives document 2013 flood history” by Veronica Baas, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 12, 2015.
“CSU starts 2013 flood oral histories” by Monte Whaley, The Denver Post, October 29, 2015.
“Oral histories of 2013 Front Range flood available through CSU libraries” by Charlie Brennan, Boulder Daily Camera, October 27, 2015.
“CSU effort preserves oral history of 2013 flooding” by CSU External Relations Staff, Source, Colorado State University, October 21, 2015.