Oral Histories

About the Program

The Panama Canal Museum Collection (PCMC) is a leading research collection for the study of the American era of the Panama Canal (1904-1999). The oral history program was created to document the story of the Canal in the words of the people who lived it; capturing the details of life that are often not discussed in publications, not captioned in photographs, or would otherwise be lost.

The stories of the individuals who lived and worked at the Canal are essential pieces of the historical puzzle – without these stories, valuable insight into the past and many special memories will be lost. Our goal is to capture the broadest possible range of individual and collective experiences – everyone’s narrative is irreplaceable and enriches our understanding of life surrounding the Canal.

Oral history interview recordings are preserved as part of the PCMC, and they also will be freely available online to a worldwide audience as part of the UF Digital Collections. These recordings are available for research by scholars, students, and the public, and they also are used for educational purposes in classes and exhibitions.

To learn more about the oral history program, please contact Betsy Bemis, ehbemis@ufl.edu or John Nemmers, jnemmers@ufl.edu, (352) 273-2766.

Digital Collection

The Panama and the Canal Oral Histories digital collection includes oral history interviews pertaining to the Panama Canal, the former Canal Zone, and the Republic of Panama. The collection started as a joint project of the UF George A. Smathers Libraries, the Panama Canal Museum, and the UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Please note that interviews typically need to be transcribed before they are published in the digital collection, so some interviews may not be available online.

Support the Oral History Program!

If you are interested in supporting the project, we are seeking funds to help pay for student assistants and for travel and other expenses needed to conduct interviews. If you are interested in donating please visit our Oral History Campaign page or contact the Development office at contact the Development Office at lib-development@ad.ufl.edu or (352) 273-2505.

Pan Caribbean Sankofa Oral History Project

As part of our Oral History Program, we are partnering with Pan Caribbean Sankofa on a project to record and preserve oral histories narrated specifically by people of West Indian descent. Members of Pan Caribbean Sankofa conduct the interviews, and UF preserves and provides access to them as part of the Panama and the Canal Oral Histories collection. More information about the project is available on our project page.

Panama Canal Personal Stories

In addition to oral history interviews, the PCMC provides access to written narratives on a variety of topics. If you are interested in submitting a written story please contact John Nemmers, jnemmers@ufl.edu, (352) 273-2766.