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Finding Aid to the Willa K. Baum Papers, 1940-2006
BANC MSS 2008/114  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Willa K. Baum papers
    Date (inclusive): 1940-2006
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2008/114
    Creators : Baum, Willa K.
    Extent: Number of containers: 4 cartons, 2 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 8
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Papers of Willa K. Baum document both her personal and professional life as a longtime resident of the Berkeley community and director of the Regional Oral History office (ROHO) at UC Berkeley. In addition to being a pioneer in the field of oral history and internationally revered in her profession, Willa was the mother of six children, a beloved friend, sister, daughter, partner, and teacher, all of which is reflected in the collection of her personal papers spanning from 1940 to 2006. This collection has been divided into four series: Correspondence; Personal Records; Academic Papers; and Professional Records. All four series give insight into the passion Baum had for her work and her family and friends. One colleague said in reference to Willa, "All time is precious, not to be wasted," which is shown clearly through her records of traveling, raising six children, writing leading books on the profession of oral history, sustaining lifelong friendships, and leading an oral history department that would create some of the most valuable work in its field in the country.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000. Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html. 
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Willa K. Baum Papers, BANC MSS 2008/114, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    Records of the Regional Oral History Office, CU-12.3
    Conversations with Willa Baum, director of the Regional Oral History Office, UC Berkeley, BANC MSS 2013/219

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Baum, Willa K.--Archives
    Regional Cultural History Project (University of California, Berkeley)
    Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office
    Oral history--United States
    Oral history--Methodology

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Willa K. Baum Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Marc Baum on May 8, 2008.

    Accruals

    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Crystal Miles in 2013.

    Biographical Information

    Willa K. Baum was a leader in the field of oral history for much of her long life, as well as the mother of six children, a dedicated friend, partner, sister and daughter. She was greatly respected in her profession and in the Berkeley community. Willa dedicated almost half of a century to the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) at the University of California, Berkeley, becoming its director in 1958 after several years as a transcriber, interviewer, and editor. Willa also published numerous manuals and articles on the discipline of oral history (including the still widely used book, Oral History for the Local Historical Society, first published in 1969), and was a founding member of the Oral History Association (OHA). Those who knew her personally saw her as an organizer and a brilliant, yet humble woman who never took no for an answer. Over her years at ROHO, Willa led the office from a two person operation with few resources (under $15,000) to a leader in the field, with 33 employees, a $500,000 budget, and a catalog of over 1,600 oral histories.
    Willa was born Willa Klug on October 4, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois to Wilhelm Frederick Klug, an osteopathic doctor from Austria, and Dorothy (Hampton) Klug, a homemaker from Nebraska. She had one sister, Gretchen Klug, and they would always have a close relationship. Willa's father died when she was between six and seven years old, which started the series of moves that her mother would make with both Willa and her sister. They traveled across Western Europe where Willa attended boarding school, then lived in New York City for a short period of time where she attended the Rudolph Steiner School. After leaving New York they lived in various towns across the mid-west finally settling in Ramona, California when Willa was in the sixth grade where they lived until she graduated from high school. Willa recalled that although her mother had very little money, she always managed to scrape together enough to take care of her daughters and to ensure they received the best education possible.
    Upon graduation from high school, Willa chose to continue her education at Whittier College. She became a star student, excelling in history. Willa had always shown academic talent, but she had an array of interests beyond school. She loved theater, played the trombone, and wrote for her high school paper and for a local paper in Whittier for which she wrote a social column. During her undergraduate days she worked as a teacher's assistant and thought that she may go on to study law. Instead she received a full scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to study for a master's degree in history. She took the opportunity after graduating from Whittier College in 1947 and relocated to the Bay Area. While a graduate student, Willa worked as an assistant for several professors and taught English language courses to foreign students at an Oakland adult school. After completing her M.A. in history in 1950, Willa received a scholarship to study at U.C. Berkeley in the Department of History's doctoral program, where she was one of two women. While there, she worked as a teacher's assistant and continued teaching English language classes in the evening, thinking she would pursue a career in teaching.
    In 1952 the inception of what would become the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) was created when several academics at U.C. Berkeley set out to create an oral history of Alice B. Toklas. James Hart and George Stewart, both professors of English at U.C. Berkeley, worked with George Hammond, then Director of the Bancroft Library, to record Toklas's interview and transcribe the tapes which would then be a tool for research in addition to papers relating to Gertrude Stein held at the Bancroft Library. Upon completion, Hart and Stewart went to the Academic Senate with a proposal for a project to record the stories of historically important Californians. U.C. President Robert Gordon Sproul agreed to take funds from his own budget to pay for an oral history of former U.C. Regent John Francis Neylan with the intention of gaining information on the subject of the loyalty oath in which Neylan had been involved.
    During the time that the oral history project was in its very early stage, Willa Klug had met and married Paul Baum. She became pregnant in 1952 and took a year off of school to have her baby because she was, as she said later, "embarrassed" to walk around campus while pregnant. After a year in New York with her in-laws, and a newborn baby (Marc), Willa and her family returned to Berkeley and her doctoral studies. She continued to teach English language courses in the evening, complete coursework toward her doctorate, and take care of her family. It was at this time that Corinne Gilb, another doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley, was hired to work on the interview of Regent Neylan and recommended Willa for another part-time position. By 1954 Willa was working a few hours a week transcribing for the oral history project, then called the Regional Cultural History Project (later ROHO), and had given birth to her second child, Eric.
    In 1955 the Regional Cultural History Project (RCHP) gained momentum, a committee was formed to supervise the project, and together Willa Baum and Corinne Gilb started to build a methodology to create successful oral histories. They listened to tapes of interviews they had recorded and drew up an outline of rules, creating an oral history methodology and guideline. Although they had not created the first oral history office in the U.S. (Columbia University's oral history department was created in 1948), they were present in the early stages and helped shape what the field would become. By 1956 Willa was focusing ever more energy on oral histories and, in combination with having another child (Rachel) and needing to work to support her family, her formal education became less important to her, and she decided to quit the doctoral program.
    In 1956 and 1957, RCHP was low on funding and had a lack of faculty participation, making the future of its existence uncertain. The passion Willa had for creating and maintaining the oral history project had grown and she refused to let it fail. Together with her small team, she tirelessly sought out faculty members and donors who would support the project. In 1958 Willa took the title of Director of RCHP and by 1960 the project had eighty-five interviews completed or in process in areas of university history, law and politics, business, literature, conservation, art, welfare, and more. Corinne Gilb had left, but Amelia "Chita" Fry, Edna Daniel, and Suzanne Riess had joined Willa in building one of the most prevalent oral history projects in the country.
    In 1965 RCHP was renamed the Regional Oral History Project and became an official division of the Bancroft Library. It was not long after this that Willa made the decision to focus all of her attention on her work as an oral historian at ROHO and her family, and she gave up her teaching job. By 1973 Willa had three more children: Brandon (born 1960), Noah (born 1966), and Anya (born 1972), and she would end up divorcing their father, Paul Baum, in 1981. All the while her work at ROHO moved forward. She was able to acquire individual donations and grants, which enabled her small staff to continue their efforts in producing oral histories, all the while having to work their way through bureaucratic hoops to get the work done. Although there where continual changes in funding, committees, technology, bureaucracy, and office locations, ROHO was able to not only survive, but flourish under Willa's leadership for the next thirty-six years. By the time she retired in 2001, Willa had taken ROHO from a handful of staff with no funds to over 30 staff members and 1,600 oral histories, while setting the standards for what oral history is as a discipline. Upon retirement, she earned the Berkeley citation, the university's highest honor, and the Bancroft Library's Hubert Howe Bancroft Award, in recognition of her many contributions. Willa passed away on May 16, 2006, due to complications from back surgery.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Papers of Willa K. Baum document both her personal and professional life as a longtime resident of the Berkeley community and director of the Regional Oral History office (ROHO) at U.C. Berkeley. In addition to being a pioneer in the field of oral history and internationally revered in her profession, Willa was the mother of six children, a beloved friend, sister, daughter, partner, and teacher, all of which is reflected in the collection of her personal papers spanning from 1940 to 2006. This collection has been divided into four series: Correspondence; Personal Records; Academic Papers; and Professional Records. All four series give insight into the passion Willa had for her work and her family and friends. One colleague said in reference to Willa, "All time is precious, not to be wasted," which is shown clearly through her records of traveling, raising six children, writing leading books on the profession of oral history, sustaining lifelong friendships, and leading an oral history department that would create some of the most valuable work in its field in the country.
    The correspondence files in this collection, located in Series 1, capture the details of Willa's relationships with friends and family during most of her adult life, from 1943 to 2006. Her close relationship with her sister, Gretchen Klug, and lifelong friend, Ada Babine ("Red"), is shown here through extensive correspondence spanning over six decades. This series also consists of letters from her children: Marc, Eric, Rachel, Brandon, Noah, and Anya, former husband, Paul Baum, mother, Dorothy Klug, colleagues that became close friends, and international students that kept in touch after they returned to their home countries. Through these letters we are given insight into joyous occasions like births and professional milestones, and sadness through the death of one of her children and the dissolution of marriage, all painting the landscape of complex human life.
    Series 2 consists of miscellaneous personal records including: notebooks; biographical materials such as resumes, a copy of Willa's biography in the "Who's Who of American Women" publication, and interview excerpts; various awards and recognitions; newspaper clippings; photographs; and a scrapbook from her young adult years (1947 - 1958). Willa had a wide range of interests including theatre and travel, and had an active social life, which is reflected in this series.
    Series 3 documents Willa's academic career from her time as an undergraduate at Whittier College (1943 - 1947) to her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley Department of History in the early 1950s. This series consists of coursework, term papers, and exams from her time as a student. Also included is a yearbook from Whittier College (1947) and drafts of her master's thesis. Willa's academic papers show her knowledge and background in United States History and her dedication to her education.
    A major aspect of Willa Baum's life work was as an oral historian and as director of ROHO at U.C. Berkeley for 43 years. Series 4 of this collection shows a glimpse of this work as well as her work as a teacher of English to foreign-born adults through public adult education schools in Oakland, California. This series includes educational materials that she wrote for teaching English and her published works on the field of Oral History, as well as correspondence, miscellaneous organizational records, subject files, photographs relating to work, a scrapbook from her retirement in 2000, and a Berkeley Citation Award.