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Greenbelt Oral History Project collection

 Collection 0255-MDHC

The Greenbelt Oral History Project collection is comprised of oral histories recorded in conjunction with the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Greenbelt, Maryland, in 1987. The Greenbelt Oral History Project was a cooperative project between the faculty and staff of the University of Maryland, College Park and the Greenbelt Public Library. Oral histories were conducted by University of Maryland students who interviewed some of Greenbelt's original residents in the 1980s. The collection is comprised of transcripts and audio recordings of these oral histories as well as administrative information about the Greenbelt Oral History Project. Some interviews in the collection remain restricted.


  • 1980-1987
  • Majority of material found within 1980-1986

Use and Access to Collection

This collection contains restricted material, please check the series and folder listings for additional information.

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit, so we may determine the proper steps to be taken.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


2.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Greenbelt Oral History Project Collection contains materials created between 1980 and 1987. The interviews conducted for the Greenbelt Oral History Project cover fifty years of the city's history from 1937 to 1987. The collection consists of oral history transcripts, audio recordings, correspondence, and administrative materials related to the city's fiftieth anniversary celebration. These materials include the oral histories completed as part of the Greenbelt Oral History Project as well as a record of the collaborative effort between faculty and staff of the University of Maryland, College Park and the Greenbelt Public Library.


The Greenbelt Oral History Project was a cooperative project between faculty, staff, and students at the University of Maryland, College Park and the Greenbelt Public Library. The goal of the project was to collect oral histories from Greenbelt residents who had lived in the city at the time of its creation in 1937. Martha J. Ross, an oral historian and professor at the University of Maryland, managed the project while her students conducted the interviews of Greenbelt residents. Interviews were recorded on cassette tapes and later transcribed. The city of Greenbelt celebrated fifty years of community through a number of remembrance events, such as the Greenbelt Oral History Project.

Greenbelt, Maryland was a public cooperative community founded in 1937 as part of the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This project included two other towns, Greendale, Wisconsin, and Greenhills, Ohio. The construction of the town created new jobs while also providing moderately priced housing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. At the time of its creation, potential residents had to meet stringent requirements to live in Greenbelt. Residents were selected based on race, occupation, income, and willingness to participate in community events such as fundraisers. The federal government retained ownership of the town until December 31, 1952, when the majority of the original homes were then purchased by a resident housing cooperative. Community members were encouraged to participate and utilize cooperatives such as the Greenbelt Consumers Coop grocery store and the Greenbelt News Review. In 1963, the social engineering aspect of the town was eliminated and there are currently no requirements to become a resident of Greenbelt.


This collection has been arranged as three series.

Series 1
Administrative Files
Series 2
Oral History Transcripts
Series 3
Oral History Recordings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Greenbelt Oral History Project collection was donated to the University of Maryland Libraries by James K. Giese, City Manager of Greenbelt, Maryland on December 17, 1987.

Related Material

Martha J. Ross Papers, Historical Manuscripts Department, University of Maryland Libraries

Fischetti, Michael. "The Development of the City of Greenbelt, Maryland: Its Growth, Government, and Politics." M.A. Thesis, University of Maryland, 1967. University of Maryland Libraries, Maryland Thesis, LD3231.M70m Fischetti, M.

Skolnik, Alfred. City of Greenbelt 25th Anniversary. Greenbelt, MD: Greenbelt 1962. University of Maryland Libraries, Maryland Folio, F189.G7G68

Williamson, Mary Lou. Greenbelt: History of a New Town. Norfolk, VA: Donning Co. Publishers, 1987. University of Maryland Libraries, Maryland Folio F189.G7 W55

Greenbelt Public Library holds collections on the history of Greenbelt as well as copies of some of the oral history interviews from the Greenbelt Oral History Project Collection.

Processing Information

Materials in this collection were not in any discernable order when they were received. All transcripts were placed in acid-free folders. In addition, staples and metal fasteners were removed. Some interview transcripts and audio recordings, originally donated as with the Martha J. Ross Papers were transferred to the Greenbelt Oral History Project Collection, as they had been produced for the Greenbelt Oral History Project. Separation sheets have been included in the files to identify transferred materials. For interviews for which there are both audio recordings and transcripts, the two formats were separated. Materials were arranged by format and access level. They were then assigned in three series: administrative files, oral history transcripts, and oral history recordings. Cross references between transcripts and recordings have been noted in parentheses in the folder titles. Interviews without signed release agreements from both the interviewee and the interviewer remain restricted, but are listed in the finding aid. Restricted transcripts and audio recordings were placed in separate boxes from materials that are open for research. Those interviews published in Greenbelt's 50th Years Commemorative Program were assumed to be open to the public.

Guide to the Greenbelt Oral History Project collection
Processed by Kerry Schork, April 2011.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742