Securing the Future of the Center for Oral and Public History

Individual stories and memories matter in understanding who we are as a local, national and global community. Whether the story is re-told in the intimate setting of an oral history interview, presented as part of an interactive historical exhibit, or in a performance before community members, collectively these are the stories that have shaped our past, inform the present and guide our future.

Established as the Oral History Program in 1968, the Center for Oral and Public History maintains California’s largest oral history archive, boasting more than 5,000 recorded interviews and related transcripts, photographs and other materials. The collection stands out nationally for its grassroots nature and the wide range of communities represented. And from the outset, the center has involved CSUF students in the important work of collecting and presenting these histories. Working alongside the center’s distinguished faculty and staff, these students have been given a distinctive, hands-on learning experience.

A $3.5-million effort will create a new, state-of-the-art archival facility with optimal conditions in which to store the center’s valuable historical resources; provide adequate space and equipment for students to collaborate on both oral and public history projects; and secure the resources and technology to continue digitizing its collections and making them available online.

Stewarding the Globally Significant Archaeo-Paleo Collection

In addition to the university’s own archaeo-paleo collection, Cal State Fullerton has been entrusted with curating and managing the county of Orange’s vast collection of truly remarkable artifacts, fossils and geological specimens that showcase both our natural history as well as the history of the human experience in this region.

The scientific, academic and cultural impact of this collection has been termed “incalculable,” as portions of the collection date back 180 million years and include evidence of species never before seen and a land that served as a nexus of where different Native American groups came together.

Engaging in the important work of preserving our past and bringing it to life presents an unparalleled opportunity for college students. As these future geologists and anthropologists join accomplished educators and other professionals, the result is an amazing and enriching academic experience. This work is supported through the Cooper Center, a state-of-the-art curation facility in Santa Ana named after the late CSUF Professor Emeritus John D. Cooper whose formative work on the collection helped bring these efforts to where they are today.

Understanding the past means affording these students, researchers and the public opportunities to study the collection. The collection will be shared in the future at exhibits, in K-12 classrooms and on an interactive website. A $1-million project now under way will build and outfit a mobile “dig rig” — a customized museum on wheels — and provide the resources to develop K-12 curriculum and public outreach programs throughout the county to present the collection to the public.

Ultimately, the university will seek an endowed chair to manage the effort with optimum effectiveness and maximize opportunities for the public to access and understand the collection.