Oral history project brings past to life


In January 2009, Dr. James Tagg, Professor Emeritus of the history department, initiated a project to conduct, collect, digitize and make accessible interviews with individuals intimately connected with the early years of the University of Lethbridge.

With the assistance of Graham Ruttan, a student in the Faculty of Education, the number of interviews conducted with faculty, staff, administrators, students and friends of the University has grown to 70. The interviews are between one and three hours long and provide a wealth of engaging and informative storytelling of the lives of individuals who experienced the University of Lethbridge during its infancy.

According to the Oral History Association, "Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies."

The University Archives, together with the Department of History, has taken on the important role of ensuring that the collection is preserved and accessible to the University community. Dr. Heidi Macdonald has assumed responsibility for the collection and has been instrumental in ensuring that the project continues to grow. Jacob Cameron, a technical specialist in the University Library and working in the University Archives has done most of the work required to design and facilitate the easy access to these recordings.

Karissa Patton, a student in the history program, has also contributed to this project by assisting with the biographies and transcripts first worked on by Ruttan. Ruttan spent two summers on this project, interviewing former students, creating written transcripts and conducting the research for the short biographies of the participants.

While the project is largely complete, it is still a work in progress. It can be accessed on campus from two online locations. From the University Library's homepage under the Resources tab, choose "U of L's Digital Collections" and follow the link to the collection. It is also located on the University Archives web page at

Dr. Tagg joined the Department of History in 1969. During his tenure here, he served as assistant dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. Tagg, who retired in 2003, devoted much of his time to the advancement of liberal education here at the University. In recognition, the U of L has honored him and a fellow Professor Emeritus, Dr. Ron Yoshida, with the Tagg-Yoshida Lectures, which emphasize the importance of liberal education to the University and to the southern Alberta community.

In addition, the Dr. James D. Tagg Citizenship Award is available to continuing graduate students for academic achievement and community involvement.

This oral history project provides the University with a distinctive and valuable way to capture the early history of our institution. Together with all the interviewees, Tagg has captured the lived experiences of individuals forever linked to the U of L. It will serve as an enduring legacy to our institutional memory.

Mike Perry is the University Archivist

This story first appeared in the February 2012 edition of The Legend. To view the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.