Oral History: In Their Own Words

The NPS Oral History Collection includes over 1,100 interviews with current and former NPS staff, their families, and affiliated individuals. The collection includes a variety of projects conducted from 1959 to today. The interviews describe people, parks, events, actions, and management decisions made from the establishment of the NPS in 1916 through to current events. Most interviews have associated correspondence and research notes.

Whether you are interested in a finding an interview with a family member, delving into the history of your favorite park, or learning more about the events that shape our nation, you can find out who has been interviewed and general topics of discussion in our searchable finding aid (795 KB, PDF). Full transcripts are posted online as they are digitized. In the meantime, if you need a transcript or have questions, contact the archivist.

Reflecting on Recollections

These interviews document a wide range of events experienced by NPS personnel who may recall deeply personal journeys and defining incidents that shaped their characters as well as their careers. Some experienced or witnessed injustices such as discrimination, unfortunate accidents, and even criminal behaviors. These recollections may be difficult for some users of the collection to hear (or read) because of the events described or the language used to describe them.

Where known, effort has been made to identify collections (and in some cases individual interviews) that may be distrubing to some users. For more information, see the Statement of Potentially Harmful Content in our FAQs.

Collection Highlights

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) men taking a lunch break at Rocky Mountain National Park, c. 1930s. NPS Photo by George A. Grant.

S. Herbert Evison’s NPS Oral History Project — Collected from 1959-1963 and 1972-1974, these interviews focus on early NPS history, with a particular emphasis on Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) men. Evison collected 475 interviews, including those with NPS directors, superintendents, program managers, and others.

Female rangers in front of the Royal Palm Visitor Center, Everglades National Park, c. 1961.

Dorothy B. Huyck’s Women in the NPS Oral History Project — Collected from 1976-1979, these interviews focus on the experiences of women in the NPS. Huyck recorded interviews with 144 women and some men. She also conducted unrecorded telephone interviews with over 70 individuals and her notes are available in this collection. Interviews are with a wide range of "rank and file" women as well as notable figures in NPS history. Some interviews describe discrimination or use offensive language.

US Park Police Marine Unit, patrols New York harbor after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. New York City skyline in background.

September 11, 2001 Oral History Project — Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, NPS historians and ethnographers recorded the memories of staff who experienced the events and their aftermaths. More than 100 employees were interviewed for the project, primarily from the Statue of Liberty, Arlington House, and U.S. Park Police from Washington, D.C. and New York. Interviews with staff detailed from other parks to deal with emergency response are also included. Some readers may find recollections of the 9/11 attacks emotionally disturbing.

This helicopter was used to search cliffs for a lost hiker at Yosemite National Park.

Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR) Oral History Project— Sixty-seven interviews conducted with employees that joined the NPS in the 1950s-1970s. Collected in advance of the NPS Centennial in 2016, the individuals interviewed occupied leadership positions during decades of great change for the NPS. Some interviews describe discrimination, suicide, and assaults and other criminal activities.

Brick factory on the bank of a river
National Heritage Areas—Fifty-eight oral history interviews conducted by Antoinette Condo as part of a national heritage areas administrative history project.
Exterior view of a two story brick building.

Interviews with 36 Harpers Ferry Center (HFC) staff collected for the center’s 40th and 50th anniversaries in 2010 and 2020, respectively, and others recorded by NPS oral historian Dr. Lu Ann Jones to document the history of interpretation and NPS graphic design and identity.

LISTEN to the Power of the Voice

A selection of interview snippets from the NPS Oral History Collection are available online. Check back to hear more interviews as they become available.

Eileen Szychowski: Expanding Access at Grand Canyon

NPS Oral History: Centennial Voices

Association of National Park Rangers

The Helpers: Life, Death, and Safety in Our Parks

The Changing Face of Conservation

A Park as Home

Hidden History of Park Publications


The Urban Parks Mission

Cherry Payne

The Evolution of NPS Interpretation

The National Park Service Reckons with Representation

LEARN More about Oral History

Park museum collections also include oral history collections that focus on the people, places, and stories of specific parks. To find more oral histories, check out the Directory of Oral History in the National Park Service.

The NPS Park History Program provides more information on NPS oral history projects and additional resources.

To learn more about planning an oral history project of your own or for interview tips, visit the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Last updated: September 22, 2022