Williams College Oral History Project

The College Archives conducts interviews with Williams faculty, staff, trustees and alumni who complement paper and digital records with personal insights into College history. Interview transcripts are available in the Special Collections reading room. Abstracts of unrestricted interviews are available in Unbound.

  • History of the project

    The Williams College Oral History Project was established with a gift from Anne Sawyer, wife of Williams President John Sawyer, “to record the College’s history through interviews and reminiscences” in order to document “the interesting and distinctive past of the College itself and of its place in the evolution of American higher educational institutions.”

    John Walsh (Williams 1954) conducted nearly 25 interviews from 1991 to 1995, and Charles R. Alberti (Williams 1950), who succeeded him in 1996, conducted more than 400 interviews before his death in 2012. Charles served as Project Director, working in concert with Bob Stegeman (Williams 1960), interviewing alumni, faculty, staff, and townspeople to record their memories of people and events in the College’s history. Currently Wendy Hopkins (Williams 1972) serves as the project's director.

    If you have suggestions for individuals to be interviewed, please contact us.

  • Using oral histories

    Please use our oral histories wisely. Although the interviews are a valuable resource for understanding the College’s past, keep in mind that no person’s memory is wholly reliable and that any given narrative of events is limited by the interviewee’s role and perspective. Statements should be considered in the context of other interviewees’ memories and of other published and unpublished historical sources. Please work with the archivists to locate relevant additional resources.

  • About the transcripts

    There are some instances in which transcripts intentionally vary from the original audio interview. In keeping with standard oral history practice, interviewees review drafts of the transcripts so that they may make factual corrections and other emendations. In the early years of the project, some interviewees edited heavily; in addition, transcriptionists had some freedom to repair sentence construction and grammar. In recent years, substantive additions, deletions, or revisions, in particular any correction of fact, has been indicated in the transcript within square brackets. Brackets are also used to mark simple editorial expansions and clarifications.