Institute Receives National Archives Grant to Digitize Oral Histories of Immigrant Scientists

$130K+ award is part of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s efforts to improve public access to historical records.

June 8, 2021

The Science History Institute is proud to announce that it is the recipient of a $132,875 grant from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the project “Science, War, and Exile: Oral Histories of Immigration and Innovation.” The grant is part of the NHPRC’s efforts to improve public access to historical records.

The project will make freely accessible and searchable the oral histories of 70 eminent scientists and scientist-entrepreneurs who immigrated to the United States in the 20th century. The oral histories provide moving testimony and insights into the nature of immigrant scientists’ scientific work and enterprise, as well as their struggles and successes in weaving themselves into the cultural fabric of American life. Many of these stories recount in vivid detail the historical events and social conditions that led these men and women to immigrate to the United States, including the Nazi occupation of Europe, political repression in Cuba and Brazil, anti-Semitism in Turkey, South African apartheid, the ill-fated Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the anti-intellectualism and deprecation of science during the Cultural Revolution in China.

“Oral history is about bringing people’s stories to bear on our understanding and interpretation of history, to learn more about the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of historical events. We can then take that knowledge and apply it to what is happening in our world today,” said David Caruso, director of the Institute’s Center for Oral History. “The NHPRC grant will allow the Center for Oral History not only to highlight the memories of emigrants and their experiences of war, exile, and immigration, but also allow others to both read and hear history simultaneously. We will be layering transcripts with our audio and/or video recordings using a web application known as the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, giving users of our site greater accessibility to our collection of oral histories with emigrants and the ability to experience not just what our interviewees said, but also the gravity of their voices—their tones, inflections, and emotions—of the profound memories they shared with us.”

About the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

The NHPRC is a statutory body affiliated with the National Archive and Records Administration and supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States. To learn more, visit

Featured image: Jewish German chemist Georg Bredig’s immigrant identification card, 1940. Science History Institute

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