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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oral History Program records

Identifier: AC-0502

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The focus of this collection is the operation and administration of the Oral History Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the years 1975 to 1979. The end results of many of the projects sponsored by the program, that is, the edited transcripts of the oral history interviews, are available in separate collections in the MIT Institute Archives. These collections are listed in the Related Materials section.

Files labeled Interview Transcripts include draft and final copies of the transcriptions of oral history interviews. Most of the folders contain a draft of the transcription with handwritten corrections and a final copy of the interview. These files are closed.


  • Creation: 1973 - 1986


Access note

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online. Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

The Oral History Program (originally the Oral History Laboratory) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was started in April 1975 by Charles Weiner, Professor of the History of Science and Technology, and operated until 1979. The program sought to document important people and events in the history of science and technology with a focus on MIT. The program sponsored many concurrent projects of varying size and duration. Oral history interviews were recorded onto audio (and occasionally video) tape, transcribed, checked for accuracy by the interviewee, and deposited in the MIT Institute Archives. In addition to historical projects, the Oral History Program worked on developing uses for oral history in the classroom. The program sponsored workshops for students during the Independent Activities Period and work opportunities through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

One of the earliest and most elaborate projects sponsored by the program was the documentation of the recombinant DNA research controversy. The project ran from 1975 to 1979 and included over 100 interviews with scientists, educators, and politicians. Supplementary materials, in the form of publications and press clippings, were also gathered.

Other projects of the included documenting the history of computers at MIT, the origins and development of MIT's Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects, the MIT Physical Science Study Committee, the Project Athena computer network at MIT, and the New England nuclear energy controversy in the late 1970s, and gathering life histories of prominent women in science and engineering. The program also ran several biographical projects whose subjects included, among others, Harold Edgerton, Vannevar Bush, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Robley D. Evans.


15 Cubic Feet (15 record cartons, 1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the administrative activities of the Oral History Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which operated from 1975 to 1979 under the direction of Charles Weiner. It contains correspondence, grant proposals, forms and procedural documents, interview transcripts audiotapes and videotapes. The recombinant DNA controversy history project is well documented. Other projects represented include the life histories of prominent women in science and engineering and the documentation of the development of Project Athena at MIT.


Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisition

Materials were transferred to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Charles Weiner, director of the Oral History Program, in 1999.

Related Oral History Collections

Oral Histories produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History Program

Oral History interview with Carl Soderberg (MIT Mechanical Engineering) (MC 23)

Oral History Interviews on Women in Science and Engineering, 1976-1977 (MC 86).

Oral History Interviews on Ocean Engineering (MC 89).

Oral History Collection on the Recombinant DNA Controversy, 1966-1978, 1988 (MC 100).

Oral history Interviews on MIT-California Division of Highways Project, 1975 (MC 130).

Oral History Interviews on Computers at MIT, 1976-1977 (MC 131).

Oral History Interview with Harold Eugene Edgerton, 1978 (MC 132).

Oral History Interviews on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects, 1976 (MC 133).

Oral History Interviews with Charles Stark Draper, 1976 (MC 134).

Related Materials

Charles Weiner papers, MC 553, Department of Distinctive Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory of Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History Program
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 August 18: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.
  • 2023 August 30: Revised by processing archivist Chris Tanguay to add access notes and enhance description.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US