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Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project oral history collection

Identifier: OH 8297


The collection comprises 214 oral histories focused on Baltimore's older working-class ethnic neighborhoods. The materials include audio recordings, tape indexes, biographical material, interviewer notes, and full or partial transcripts are available for 79 of the interviews.


  • 1978-1982

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Historical Note

The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) was a joint endeavor of the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Regional Institutional Studies Center (BRISC). William Theodore Durr, former head of BRISC at UB, was the director of BNHP. The goal of the project was to develop a community history project that would focus on Baltimore's older, working-class ethnic neighborhoods through the medium of oral history. Local supporters included Baltimore City agencies, community representatives, and members of academia.

From the fall of 1978 through the summer of 1980, the BNHP conducted approximately two hundred oral history interviews with longtime residents of four distinct Baltimore City neighborhoods: Highlandtown, Hampden, Park Heights, and Little Italy, as well as three City regions: West Baltimore (Sandtown-Winchester in particular), South Baltimore, and East Baltimore. Also included were a number of residents from areas near these sites. In order to uncover the intersection of ethnicity and neighborhood history, interview topics included migration, immigration, racial and ethnic identity, national and local events, neighborhood living conditions, family life, work experiences, and religious practice. Interviewers also asked questions about housing, recreational activities, amount of contact with other ethnic groups, and one’s vision of America.

BNHP project staff--which consisted of local activists, community and professional historians, and graduate students--wanted to develop the community residents' "sense of ownership in the project" and therefore sought to involve them in virtually every step of the process. Many of the interviewees heard about the oral history component of the project through their participation in the BNHP's "Eating Together Program," a series of multi-site luncheons for senior citizens in and near the targeted areas.

In addition to documenting the oral history memories of selected senior citizen Baltimoreans, the BNHP included a traveling museum and a traveling theater. The Project also published a compilation of transcript passages and photos in the book Baltimore People Baltimore Places (PAM 11,014).

Originally in the custody of the Baltimore City Life Museum (closed in 1997), the tapes, transcripts, and other BNHP program information are now held at the Maryland Center for History and Culture and the University of Baltimore’s Langsdale Library.


Theodore W. Durr, ed., Baltimore: Its History and Its People (Baltimore: University of Baltimore, 1980). (MF 206 .B31)


214 Items : 214 oral histories

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials for the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) were originally in the possession of the Baltimore City Life Museum, which closed in 1997. Tapes, transcripts and other items related to the project were transferred the following year to the Maryland Historical Society (now known as the Maryland Center for History and Cutlure) and the University of Baltimore's Langsdale Library.

Related Materials

In addition to the oral histories, the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) included other components designed to promote direct community involvement in the project. A theatrical production, "Baltimore Voices," utilized the oral history transcripts as the basis for its script. The play, which consisted of a series of sketches devoted to each neighborhood, was shown at approximately 35 venues around Baltimore in the winter and spring of 1980. "Baltimore People, Baltimore Places,” a travelling museum that toured the city in the spring of 1980, exhibited photographs, documents, and other materials gathered from community residents. A subsequent book was produced featuring quotes from the interviews and photographs that participants donated. Project historians also wrote short histories of each of the neighborhoods featured in the project. Three of these histories, examining Hampden-Woodberry, Old West Baltimore, and South Baltimore, appeared in the spring 1982 issue of the Maryland Historical Magazine.

The collection also contains an article written by oral historian Linda Shopes that appeared in the 1986 anthology "Presenting the Past: Essays on History and the Public." Shopes, who served as an historian on the project and conducted a number of the interviews, provides a history and critical analysis of the project from its inception to its termination in 1982. A brief synopsis of the BNHP can also be found in the winter 2011 issue of the Maryland Historical Magazine.

Scope and Contents

The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project Oral History Collection contains paper records and audiocassette recordings from 1978 through 1980. The paper records are composed of the files kept on each narrator (the person being interviewed) and the administrative needs of the project. Narrator records contain biography forms, interview notes, and tape indexes for approximately 212 narrators. The interview notes briefly describe the circumstance surrounding the interview(s) session. The tape index includes the name of the narrator, the name of interviewer, the number of tapes, the tape(s) length, and the primary subjects covered. Seventy-nine of the records include transcripts. Transcript length ranges from 8 to 65 pages. Some are single-spaced; others are doubled-spaced. The interviews range from twenty-five minutes to three hours in length. One file, #183, and its accompanying cassette(s) were removed from the collection.

Thirty-two interviewers participated in the project. Typically, the interviews were one-on-one sessions between interviewer and narrator; however, single interviewer and double-narrator situations occurred, as did three group “nostalgia” sessions. Most interviews were prefaced by unrecorded, pre-interview sessions that occurred days before the recorded interview.

Each narrator abstract includes the following information when available: the BNHP interview number; the name of the interviewer; the date of the interview; the place of the interview; the length of the interview; the number of tapes used; the length of the transcript; and the file contents, such as subject index, interview notes, and biography form. The abstracts follow the numerical order of the interview number. However, interview numbers are not consecutive, but site specific. That is to say, any omitted number within a site can be found in another site.

When controversial or outdated terms, especially those referring to race and ethnicity, are mentioned in the abstract, the politically-correct term is used and the term or terms used by the narrator has been placed in parenthetical (“ ”) quotation marks. Specific terms from the interviews and textual uncertainties are often placed in parentheses alone ( ). Maiden names of female narrators are placed in brackets [ ].

Guide to the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project oral history collection
In Progress
The collection was processed by Joni L. Jones, Jennifer Trentowski, Lindsey Loeper, Joseph Tropea, and Damon Talbot between 2005-2010.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-07-10: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Emily Somach.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States