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Series VIII, USDA History Collection

USDA History Collection

Series VIII. Audio, Video, and Oral History Material, 1942-1995 (bulk 1985-1992). ca. 3 cubic ft. (147 items; 1 cubic ft.)

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE | Container List   ||   Collection Map 

This series includes audiotape cassettes, videotapes in both VHS and Beta formats, and paper records. There are audiotapes of personal interviews, transcripts of these tapes, and reports of other interviews (not verbatim records). There are audiotapes of conferences, public service announcements, and reports on agriculture-related news and events. The videotapes record conferences, personal interviews, and productions intended for broadcast. Most of the material dates from the 1980s and 1990s, with a few paper records going back to the early 1940s.

The series is arranged into four subseries:

1. Audio Oral Histories

2. Other Audio Materials

3. Video Materials

4. Paper Records

Subseries 1. Audio Oral Histories, 1977-1993. 75 items | Container List

All materials in this subseries are in the form of audio cassette tapes. There are three main sets of oral histories, plus some miscellaneous material. The first set deals with rural development programs in the 1960s and 1970s. These interviews were done by Joseph Doherty in the spring of 1986; people interviewed include Willard Phillips, Paul Kugler, John D. Leslie, Aliceann Wohlbruck and Bill Bivens, Jim Thornton, Gordon Cavanaugh, and Walter A. Gunthart. Subjects include the growth of rural development groups both inside and outside USDA, the Farmers' Home Administration, acts by Congress and Oval Office initiatives, the Rural Development Act, and relationships within and among government branches, USDA agencies, and specific individuals. Some tape sides are a recitation of documents on rural development found in Wayne Rasmussen's office. The Rural Development oral histories are of fair sound quality.

The second set of oral histories were done in the early 1990s with USDA officials and agricultural personalities such as Nathan Koffsky, Wheeler McMillen and Robert McMillen, Joseph Doherty, Clarence Pals, and Wayne Rasmussen. The third set includes four interviews covering the Women Landowners Project. Interviews cover the subject's role at the USDA or any affiliated programs, their experiences, and special stories about co-workers.

Miscellaneous materials include interviews that do not fit with any oral history program. There are two interviews, conducted by Joel Schor, with women who were home demonstrators for 4-H and the Extension Service, and who did most of their work within African-American communities; one cassette side of reminiscences of Frederick V. Waugh; and an interview with Robert Moncure on his travels with his wife to African and Latin American countries for the Foreign Agriculture Service. Miscellaneous tapes are of varying quality. Side B of one tape is completely in Spanish.

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Subseries 2. Other Audio Materials, 1977-1994. 40 items | Container List

This subseries includes all audio cassettes that do not contain oral history interviews. These other materials are made up of recordings of the sessions and proceedings from an Economic Research Service (ERS) Conference in April 1991, productions of the USDA's Office of Communications Radio Center, and some miscellaneous material.

The ERS Conference tapes record various sessions scheduled on April 4, 1991. The sessions deal with such subjects as the history of ERS and agricultural policy since the 1960s, the present state of USDA, and ERS's relationship with outside groups such as international organizations and land grant universities. The sessions on the history of agricultural policy, those entitled "Situation and Outlook," "Agricultural Economics and Public Service," and a luncheon session, are also recorded on Beta video cassettes and can be found in subseries 3.

The radio programs created by the USDA Office of Communications contain general information in the form of public service announcements or segments to be inserted into a news or talk radio program; the tapes were available to radio stations across the country for air play. Each tape has three productions: Agriculture USA, which is a ten to fifteen minute program on one specific topic; Consumer Time, a series of short stories (two to three minutes in length) relating to consumer concerns; and Agri-Tape Features, another series of short news bites about agricultural products. Topics for all three programs cover subjects such as commodity and supermarket prices, Congressional actions, proper care and storage of agricultural products, the modern state of farming, home economics tips and suggestions, and more general topics such as financial planning. There are also program guides for each tape, with story titles and descriptions, story lengths, and the names of special guests. These guides are stored separately in the paper records subseries. Tapes and guides date from December 1992, and July to December 1994. For the 1992 tapes, Agri-Tape Features is titled Agri-Tape News & Features, and a fourth program, News Feature Five, appears afterwards. This segment features five important agricultural news stories from the previous week.

This subseries contains recordings of miscellaneous materials as well, such as an informational meeting about the Peace Corps, a meeting of the Organization of Professional Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (OPEDA), a speech on the state of agriculture in Campuchea (Cambodia) from 1981, and a film strip soundtrack on the Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974. Many of these tapes are of poor quality.

Among the miscellaneous tapes is one that was found with a group of photographs of Liberia taken in 1953. The tape is addressed to R[obert]. K. Winters. The speaker is probably Charles R. Lockard although he is not identified on the tape, either on the label or in the audio track. The speaker identifies and briefly comments about the photographs, which were numbered 1 through 168. Only one side is recorded although both sides are labeled. The photographs, which were originally found in the back of a file cabinet with material from the Documentary Files, Series I, subseries 4, are now filed inSeries VII, subseries 1. Paper copies of the complete list of the photographs and the transcript of the tape are filed in subseries 4 below.

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Subseries 3. Video Materials, 1985-1991. 32 items | Container List

There are 32 videotapes, mostly in Beta format, though there are also VHS tapes and 2-inch editing tapes. Most tapes are video recordings of the proceedings of an ERS conference on April 4, 1991, and cover a luncheon session, sessions on the history of agricultural policy, and sessions on the current state of the department. There are also several tapes of interviews with USDA officials Nathan Koffsky, C. Kyle Randall, Harry Steele, and Walter Wilcox. There are edited master copies of these recorded oral history interviews (done by Wayne Rasmussen) on 2" tape, and raw interview material on Beta tapes. There is also a tape entitled "Rasmussen--Intros and Cutaways," which provided additional material for the master copy. There is one other interview with Quentin West that is not part of the above group. This is a 2" master copy, and seems to come from a different set of oral histories than the Rasmussen video recordings.

Two more tapes are educational programs intended for broadcast. They cover the effects of pesticides in agricultural products and a history of the American forest.

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Subseries 4. Paper Records, 1942-1995. 1 cubic ft. | Container List

Paper records include transcripts of audio or video tapes, notes and references about interviews and interviewees, copies of published oral history transcripts from other repositories, and non-verbatim reports of interviews. This subseries is organized into general materials and interview materials.

General materials include articles and pamphlets on proper formation and administration of an oral history project, and radio program abstracts for the programs in subseries 2. There are also records documenting the creation and progress of USDA oral history projects carried out by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). These records include proposal drafts, blank consent forms, updates on project development, and letters from the National Archives and Records Administration giving guidelines and suggestions for cooperation with USDA.

Interview materials are transcripts, notes made by interviewers about subjects, and the recollections of specific people. These files are arranged alphabetically by name of subject, or sometimes name of interviewer. Most of the interviews conducted by ARS and SCS were carried out by Dr. Anne Effland; there are three oral histories done by the Columbia University Oral History Project, of which two were part of the Eisenhower Administration Project.

Files for Dr. Effland's interviewees contain original letters between Dr. Effland and the persons interviewed, notes on subjects, lists of possible questions, consent forms, publications by the interview subject, and other material. There are also transcripts of completed interviews done by either Dr. Effland or Wayne Rasmussen. Some of the people covered in this section are Wheeler McMillen and Robert McMillen, C. F. Stewart Sharpe, Clarence Pals, and Roy Simonson. There are also copies of the transcripts made by the Columbia University Oral History Project of interviews with Henry A. Wallace (for Columbia University), Don Paarlberg, and True D. Morse (both for the Eisenhower Administration Project). This subseries also contains written recollections of Clarence Pals and Martin Mosher. Mr. Mosher's text discusses his early years in rural southeastern Iowa at the turn of the century.

Also, there are records relating to an audio tape describing photographs of Liberia taken in 1953; for a fuller description, see above, Subseries 2, Other Audio Materials.

The non-verbatim reports were written by Gladys L. Baker, based on interviews she conducted during the 1940s and 1950s. In most cases, the interviewee was not named; he or she is referred to by a code name, usually a letter or series of letters such as "AA" or "UUU." These interviews were found in three loose-leaf binders; included in two of these binders were pages listing the code names along with the actual names of the interview subjects. Over time, some of the code letters were reused for different people in different series of interviews, so the researcher must be careful to use the proper code sheet to identify interview subjects. Most interviews are original typescript, but there are some onionskin copies.

Baker interviewed USDA officials and others who had a close relationship with the department. Topics were usually kept to the decisions surrounding actions the USDA took in situations such as foreign aid controversies and increasing domestic production. Some interviews have hand-made corrections by Ms. Baker.

Related Materials

Many interviews conducted by Gladys Baker have been found among the Documentary Files (Series I) where no clue, other than code names, is given as to the identities of the persons interviewed. Most of these interviews are onionskin copies, so researchers are encouraged to check Series VIII for the original typescript or another onionskin copy with an available code sheet.

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