Oral History at Zion

Oral history is one of human society’s oldest and greatest historical tools. According to the Oral History Association (OHA), “oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events,” and many groups of people have been collecting their stories, traditions, and histories orally since before the written word. Preserving the collective knowledge of oral histories through audio files, written records, and forward-thinking archival methods is a premier way the National Park Service protects and preserves cultural and natural resources.

To learn more about oral history projects throughout the National Park Service, check out the NPS Oral History subject site

Zion National Park currently houses eleven oral history projects in its collections. These collections document a range of personal, community, and park administrative histories including those of former Zion park employees, former members of the Civilian Conservation Corps working in Zion park, descendants of local Mormon settlers in Zion Canyon, local Southern Paiute tribe members, and interviews as part of natural resource assessments. A selection of the oral history collections at Zion include:

 
Zion Staff 1930s through 1940s
Zion National Park Staff from the late 1930s to the early 1940s, photo from the Karma Bills Collection.

Museum Catalog Number: ZION 12352 / Photo: ZION-304.03-05_06a

Pioneers of Zion Oral History Collection

In 1982, interviews were conducted with over one hundred local residents, many of whom were direct descendants of early Mormon pioneers and previous park employees. Conducted by Western Heritage Conservation, Inc., this project is the first large scale oral history of Zion National Park. Materials include printed transcripts, audio cassettes, and photographs.

A Guide to Interviews as well as an Index to Transcripts of Interviews are available for this oral history project. Contact museum staff for further information at zion_museum@nps.gov

Museum Catalog Number: ZION 12352 / Accession Number: ZION-00827
 
Group photo of former CCC enrollees
Group photo of former CCC enrollees who attended the September 1989 reunion hosted by the park. Museum Catalog Number: ZION 12350 / Folder: ZION 951/85-11

Civilian Conservation Corps 1989 Reunion Oral Histories

In 1989, oral interviews were conducted during the reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees who worked at Zion; the materials collected during this reunion documents the work and life in the camps and the projects completed. The CCC was an initiative during the Great Depression (1933) to take young unemployed men and give them opportunities to work in public land and gain professional skills and development. In Zion, the CCC played an important role in the development and maintenance of the park. They spent 9 years building and improving many of the Zion Canyon’s trails, creating parking areas, fighting fires, helping build campgrounds and park buildings, and reducing flooding of the Virgin River. The oral histories were conducted by the Zion park staff. Materials include written transcripts, audio cassettes and CDs, and photographs.

Civilian Conservation Corps 1989 Reunion Collection Finding Aid

Transcripts are available online for public access through the Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University.

Museum Catalog Number: ZION 12350 / Accession Number: ZION-00951

 

Pioneer Voices of Zion Canyon

The collection consists of materials and information from individuals who lived in and around the Zion Canyon Area between the years 1910-1945. The oral histories and photographs are compiled in a published book and are available for researchers, entitled Pioneer Voices of Zion Canyon by Eileen M. Smith-Cavros. Conducted in 2004, the goal of the project was to educate the public about the second and third generation settler experience with Zion Canyon and to provide an archived record of the cultural anthropology and history of the early pioneer settlers in Zion Canyon. Materials include written and digitized transcripts, audio cassettes and CDs, photographs, and a manuscript.

Pioneer Voices of Zion Canyon, 2004 Finding Aid

Transcripts are available online for public access through NPGallery. Preview the transcripts below.

Museum Catalog Number: ZION 38102 / Accession Number: ZION-01154

 
 
If you have research requests or further questions regarding Zion's oral history collections please contact museum staff by email at zion_museum@nps,gov
 
 
Work Cited

Oral History Association, “Oral History: Defined,” OHA Oral History Association, https://www.oralhistory.org/about/do-oral-history/, accessed 7/2/2020.

Last updated: October 6, 2021

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9

Springdale , UT 84767

Phone:

435-772-3256
If you have questions, please email zion_park_information@nps.gov. Get recorded park information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers staff our phone from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already on speaking with someone else.

Contact Us

Stay Connected