Oral history has existed ever since one person told another about the events in which he or she had participated. The technology of the 20th century made it possible to record the narrator as the story was being told, enabling others much later to hear the same story in the same way told by the same voice. Since the 1940s thousands of miles of audio (and more recently video) tape filled with tens of thousands of interviews have been preserved by governments, archives, historical societies, and individuals. Most organizations collect oral history interviews around a particular theme: the history of an institution or community, the life of a famous individual, agricultural history, the place of women in society, or, as in our case, the history of spreading the Gospel.
Since 1978 we have been interviewing people about their evangelistic and missionary work. Together their stories form a kind of modern book of Acts that describes how the God is expanding and building His church today, using frail and fallible men and women. Some of the people we have interviewed have been evangelists, others have been missionaries or chaplains or film makers. More than half of the over two hundred people we have talked with were Wheaton graduates and their interviews often include lengthy descriptions of Wheaton during the decades from 1910 through the 1960s.
There are many layers of meaning in an interview apart from the spoken word. Tone of voice, where a person pauses, or the laughing or crying which can underscore the significance of an account, all of these convey information. Transcribed text can make a good start at pointing out some of the nuances of speaking style or identify interuptions, but still captures only a small percentage of what is communicated as the person speaks. (That's why some oral historians have added videotaping to their toolbox.) For several years we have had transcripts to some of our interviews available over the Web. Through this exhibit, we are delighted to offer the actual sounds from a selected sample of these. While you will notice that the recording quality varies, you will hear men and women of different ethnic backgrounds describe their work throughout the world. As short as two-and-a-half minutes in length or as long as nineteen, the audio excerpts carry not only the words but some of the feeling these men and women have for the work of preaching Christ and serving Him. We welcome you to Many Voices, One Story, and hope you enjoy learning as you listen.
While you can explore this exhibit without listening to the audio excerpts, you will
need RealAudio Player to hear them through your Web browser. Clicking on the
RealAudio icon to the right will link you to the RealAudio Web site from
which to download the needed software.