1993 - 2007


Rebecca Sharpless
Director, 1993-2006

New quarters in 1994 made room for smiling faculty, staff, and students.

In June 2000, Faculty Fellows William A. Mitchell and Michael Long presented papers along with Rebecca Sharpless at the International Oral History Association meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

Rebecca Sharpless led a workshop for the Texas Association of Developing Colleges in 2002.

Elinor Mazé and Becky Shulda with the special cake at the 2003 community reception for interviewees of the rural church project

Displays in Moody Library and Mayborn Museum during 2005 highlighted scholarship based on the Baylor oral history collection.

Thirty-fifth Anniversary Lecturer Edward Linenthal spoke in 2005 on "Historical Memory and the African American Landscape."

In spring 2007, we welcomed Big 12 Faculty Fellow Tanya Finchum of Oklahoma State University

In 1992, while still directing the Institute, Thomas L. Charlton became Baylor's Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. By summer 1993, his administrative responsibilities in the Division of Academic Affairs increased to full-time, and in the twenty-third year of the Institute he founded, Dr. Charlton resigned as director. Fortunately, the opening of the director's position coincided with the availability of Rebecca Sharpless, the Institute's former Assistant Director, and she then became the Institute's second director. Institute personnel realized a long-awaited hope later that year when the Institute moved from the basement of Tidwell Bible Building to the top floor of Carroll Library, overlooking the historic Burleson Quadrangle at the heart of the Baylor campus.

Under Dr. Sharpless's leadership, the Institute entered several contract agreements for oral history services, including researching and writing historical narratives of state parks for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; interviews with division directors of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia; interviews to document the life and work of Bob Bullock, former Texas Lieutenant Governor; and interviews with pioneers in population careers for a Hewlett Foundation-University of New Mexico grant.

In 1996, a prominent outside consultant evaluated the Institute's work and determined that it ranked with the three most-respected programs in the United States: Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA. Upon his recommendation, the Institute began stretching itself beyond creating oral histories for other scholars to interpret and entered into a major research project with the purpose of publishing the findings. The result was the 2003 publication of Rock Beneath the Sand: Country Churches in Texas, an exploration of the persistence of the rural church in Central Texas through oral history and photography.

The Institute continued its supporting roles with the national and regional oral history associations, with personnel chairing various committees and moderating panels and presenting papers at its annual meetings. From 1993-1995 the Institute hosted the headquarters for the American Studies Association of Texas, with Lois Myers serving as secretary and managing editor of the association's journal. From 1995 through May 1999, the Institute served as headquarters for the Oral History Association, with Rebecca Sharpless in the position of Executive Secretary. In the mid-nineties, then, the Institute hosted three major organizations: the Oral History Association, Texas Oral History Association, and American Studies Association of Texas. Professional participation increasingly became global, with Institute faculty participating in meetings of the International Oral History Association in Oxford (1987), New York (1994), Sweden (1996), Turkey (2000), and South Africa (2002). In 2003, Rebecca Sharpless began a three-year commitment to OHA culminating in her becoming the association's president in 2005-2006.

In 1995, the Institute celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary by hosting a special lecture for the campus and community by civil rights activist and distinguished oral historian Julian Bond. In 2000, two guest lecturers helped the Institute announce its thirtieth anniversary. Alistair Thomson of the University of Sussex brought Australian and English perspectives to Baylor, and in the fall, Vicki Ruiz of Arizona State University opened to Baylor students the topic of Mexican women in the twentieth-century United States. In 2005, to mark the Institute's thirty-fifth anniversary, historian and religion studies scholar Edward Linenthal presented a well-received lecture on historical memory and the African American landscape. View Dr. Linenthal's lecture.

As from the beginning, the Baylor oral history collection benefited from the research work of faculty members from across the university. Through the years, Oral History Faculty Fellowships have funded research by Baylor faculty members on a broad range of topics, from the history of Baylor's School of Music to Turkish earthquake victims. Other faculty research included projects on accomplished vocal pedagogues, Texas swing music, Depression-era photography, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and church-state views of Baptist fundamentalists.

Increasingly, Institute for Oral History faculty members assisted the university through classroom teaching. Institute faculty members also taught outside the academy as well, conducting at least four workshops every year, mostly in Texas but occasionally on a national level. From 2004-2006, Institute faculty introduced classroom teachers to oral history techniques during the Crossroads in American History Summer Institutes, funded by a Teaching American History grant.

In 2000, the Institute offered its first Visiting Research Fellowship, which brings scholars to campus for two weeks each year to study materials in Baylor's oral history collection. Ph.D. candidates and seasoned scholars alike have benefited from researching the diverse topics in the collection, including interviews on rural life, southern culture and religion, Western swing music, economics and politics, Baptist fundamentalism, the civil rights movement, and public education.

During the 1990s, the Institute kept pace with rapidly changing technology by developing a Web site which included, in addition to information about the Institute, the Workshop on the Web and a searchable database of abstracts of its oral history collection. Accessibility grew in importance with the development of online library catalogs, and the Institute assisted Baylor Libraries with the process of adding the oral history collection to the BearCat online catalog. The gradual transition from analog to digital recording and transcribing began in 2005.

In early 2006, the Institute celebrated the publication of a volume of essays by leading theorists and practitioners of the oral history craft, including articles by three Baylor faculty members. The Handbook of Oral History (AltaMira Press) was co-edited by Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless, with editorial assistance from Leslie Ballard. In 2007, two textbooks, with selected articles from the Handbook, appeared: History of Oral History: Foundations and Methods and Thinking about Oral History: Theories and Applications.

At the end of July 2006, Rebecca Sharpless left Baylor to pursue full-time teaching and writing at Texas Christian University. Over the following months as an interdisciplinary faculty committee conducted a national search for an Institute director, Lois E. Myers served as the Interim Director.

Also in spring 2007, the Institute provided two weeks of training and consultation for a developing oral history center at Oklahoma State University by hosting Big 12 Faculty Fellow Tanya Finchum. Read about her visit.

Institute for Oral History
One Bear Place #97271
Waco, TX 76798