We would like to congratulate Martin Meeker on his retirement as the director of the Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library. As Martin put it, when you spend so much of your time listening to the stories of other people’s triumphs and challenges, at some point you want to focus on creating your own story.
Martin has achieved much during his time at Bancroft. He started his career here as an interviewer/historian in 2004, after graduating with a PhD in history from the University of Southern California. Martin published Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s in 2006 with University of Chicago Press; The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History, an anthology of fifty interviews; along with a number of articles over the years. He served as acting associate director of the Center from 2012 to 2016 and became its director in 2016.
From the early 2010s, Martin built up the program, hiring four full-time interviewer historians and a communications director, managing and initiating large endeavors such the Freedom to Marry Project, and facilitating longstanding partnerships with the Getty Trust, the East Bay Regional Park District, and the National Park Service, to name just a few. Under Martin’s leadership, the OHC has continued and expanded its education outreach and public profile. An expert interviewer, Martin conducted interviews with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Governor Jerry Brown, along with many artists, financial experts, and vintners, to hint at the range of his interviewing.
Lisa Rubens, retired oral historian and longtime OHC interviewer, reflected on Martin’s appointment: “I worked closely with Martin after he joined our staff in 2003. He was a breath of fresh air — his scholarship, collegiality, and interviewing skills were immediately obvious. Once becoming director he created an environment which supported our staff in interviewing people in all walks of life, sustaining OHC’s deserved reputation as the nation’s leading academic oral history program.”
We thank Martin for his contributions to the growth and health of the Oral History Center, and we wish him the best in writing this next chapter of his own story.
An announcement about the interim director and director search will be made in our next newsletter.