1982 - 1993
GROWING AN INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION
In 1982, with the approval of President Herbert H. Reynolds, the Program for Oral History became the INSTITUTE FOR ORAL HISTORY, authorized to broaden its research and professional scope. By 1986, three staff positions were converted to faculty slots in recognition of the increasing professionalism of Institute personnel.
Oral memoirs gathered by Baylor faculty continued to reflect the basic project directions established during the Institute's early years, but the topics within many projects broadened, touching on national and international topics. The Religion and Culture Project grew with the addition of projects focusing on Baptist responses to women in ministry and to the civil rights movement. Institute faculty members recorded the experiences of people involved in various church-sponsored programs providing aid to Central Americans entering the U.S. without government sanction in the wake of civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. The local history project received a contract to document the founding of Texas State Technical Institute to mark TSTI's twenty-fifth anniversary.
In 1982, Director Tom Charlton became the founding president of the Texas Oral History Association (TOHA), with its headquarters at Baylor, where it remains today. Rebecca Sharpless served as TOHA's first secretary-treasurer (1982 -1987), and Lois Myers assumed that position in 1987. From 1983-1985 Institute personnel organized and led seventeen oral history workshops throughout Texas, collaborating under a grant from the Texas Committee for the Humanities with TOHA, the Texas 1986 Sesquicentennial Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Texas State Library. Through the workshops, the Institute gained lasting alliances with oral historians in all parts of Texas.
In 1985, the Institute completed a fourteen-year project taping, transcribing, and editing the oral memoirs of Baylor alumnus and former U.S. Rep. W. R. "Bob" Poage. In July representatives from the Institute presented the five-volume, 1,646 page memoir, transcribed from forty-nine hours of taped interviews, to David J. Boorstin, librarian of Congress. At the time, the Poage memoirs were considered the largest oral history series on a former congressman ever presented by a university to the Library of Congress.
Also in 1985, in celebration of its fifteenth anniversary, the Institute initiated a series of interdisciplinary symposia with The Past Meets the Present, a two-day conference bringing to Baylor a host of nationally known speakers, followed by publication of the proceedings through the University Press of America. This first national symposium featured Barbara Allen, Cullom Davis, William W. Moss, Vivian Perlis, and Eliot Wigginton. In 1988, the second symposium, entitled Memory and History, brought together oral historians Paul Thompson (the Institute's first international speaker), Karen E. Fields, Michael Frisch, and Alice Hoffman with a panel of psychologists, including Elizabeth F. Loftus, Marigold Linton, and Howard S. Hoffman. The proceedings, also titled Memory and History, edited by Jaclyn Jeffrey and Glenace Edwall, were published in 1994 by University Press of America. The 1991 symposium, History in Film and Television, demonstrated the impact of oral memoirs in media and highlighted interactive panels of humanities scholars and media documentarians, including Ken Burns, Betty Sue Flowers, Ron Grele, Rosemary Gooden, Henry Hampton, Sylvia Komatsu, Judy F. Richardson, Nicholas R. Spitzer, and George C. Wright. The symposium culminated with a teleconference, allowing viewers at thirty-six sites in twenty-four states to enter the discussion.
The late 1980s brought ventures into electronic media. In 1987, a grant from the Texas Committee for the Humanities assisted Institute personnel in production of a PBS radio program entitled "Lincolnville at Moccasin Bend: Black Families on the Texas Frontier," based on interviews conducted in Coryell County. This project helped launch the Family Life and Community History Project. Subsequently, the Institute recorded the stories of many aspects of rural life in Texas, including the historic Stoner Ranch in Uvalde County, a significant cotton gin cooperative in Washington County, rural African American communities along the Brazos River south of Waco, and the experiences of farm women on the Blackland Prairie.
In 1989, the Institute brought filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell to Baylor's Distinguished Lecturers Series to discuss their documentary films on the JFK assassination. The following year, the Institute sponsored a public lecture on oral history and popular media, presented by documentary filmmaker Allen E. Tullos. With funding from the Madison A. and Martha Roane Cooper Foundation, the Institute presented to the public in 1991 its television production, Crossroads, which revealed the interplay between the land and people that formed the history and culture of Waco, Texas. Crossroads appeared on public television and on the local community cable access station.
Students in the graduate seminar in oral history gained intensive oral history experience during Charlton's 1989 summer field school, in which students lived among the people in Blanco and Gillespie Counties and recorded memories of Lyndon Baines Johnson's life and times.
The Baylor Institute faculty members continued to contribute their time and expertise to various Oral History Association committees and initiatives, and from 1983 to 1989, Charlton and Sharpless each served three years on the executive council. Beginning in 1990, Charlton served an active three-year stint at the top leadership of OHA, as vice president, president, and past president. Baylor played an integral part of staging the 1991 OHA annual meeting in Snowbird, Utah. In conjunction with the OHA, the Institute brought its second international speaker in 1991, as Irina Scherbakova visited Baylor from Russia.