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Foundation Matters

Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Program

Posted: December 6, 2017

Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Program began in 2003 as an initiative which grew from the realization that Charleston was rapidly losing members of the generation involved with the founding of Historic Charleston Foundation. At that time, the decision was made to videotape hour-long interviews with former trustees and other pioneers in the preservation movement in Charleston. The goal was to document memories about the founding of HCF and local preservation efforts, and the first-hand accounts of life in Charleston in the earlier part of the 20th century. Fifteen interviews were completed during this first “phase” including Joseph “Peter” McGee, Herbert DeCosta, Elizabeth “Liz” Young, Mayor Joseph Riley, and William Murtagh.

More recently, HCF’s efforts have expanded to include interviews with residents of specific neighborhoods who speak about neighborhood history and their experiences with neighborhood changes over time; owners of historic homes who purchased their home through one of HCF’s revolving fund programs; and Charleston craftspeople whose restoration work has contributed to Charleston’s preservation legacy. Featured above is HCF’s April Wood interviewing Joyce Howard from the New Israel Reformed Episcopal Church.

The South Carolina Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, recently awarded HCF a planning grant to revive the existing oral history program. This generous award enabled HCF to purchase equipment for collecting oral histories and to conduct workshops and training sessions with staff. The staff training and access to video and audio equipment will enable HCF to continue to collect quality oral histories on a long-term basis.

There are many more oral histories to come! They will be available for viewing at Historic Charleston Foundation’s Archives (by appointment), and will eventually be added to HCF’s collections on the Lowcountry Digital Library.

2 responses to “Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Program”

  1. Shannon Walsh O'Brien says:


    My name is Shannon Walsh O’Brien and I am a Charlestonian, who today, at Boeing, listened with great interest about the Oral History Project. My mother is an 88 year old Charlestonian who grew up in a large family in downtown Charleston. She has lived in West Ashley for 54 years, and boy, can she tell some stories.
    Your message today so struck a cord with me. Mom knew every account from the “Cigar Factory”. It was uncanny. She added so many more vivid details. Mom’s stories about “old Charleston” are rich and full of life.
    I’d be very interested in talking to you about your focus and if Mom could play a part in this great project.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    • Holland Williams says:

      Hi Shannon. Thank you so much for reaching out. Katherine Pemberton is in charge of our oral history project and will be reaching out to you.

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