History is more than names and dates, places and events. History is also the daily lives of ordinary people. It is the events that make up the life of a community. Oral histories give us the opportunity to discover what a community's life was like from the people who lived it. They are an authentic record that goes well beyond the pages of a textbook. Through stories, experiences and various anecdotes, historians can begin to construct a social history of an era. In this way, oral history is a tool for making the past important and relevant to future generations.
The goal of the Oral History Project at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is to connect with the men and women who lived and worked in Paterson and the surrounding towns. The stories they can tell us represent an often untold historical record that will paint a richer picture of America's first planned industrial city. The stories might be accounts of mill or factory work, passed down from parent to child; those parents may have been mill or factory owners, or the workers themselves. Labor leaders and other residents of the community had stories to tell as well. The narratives we collect will better allow us to share the great history of Paterson, New Jersey, with our visitors.
Listen to a few of Paterson's stories here.