Oral history is the purest form of historical work, where the lives and experiences of people—be they noteworthy or common—are recorded and placed into the historical record in their rawest form. Here, history is told through the voices of the participants themselves rather than the interpretive writings of the historian.

Todd’s work in oral history began during his graduate studies at Yale, and has grown experientially since arriving at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center. Over the years, his list of interviewees has ranged from governors and politicians, to artists, scholars, activists, surfers, and cannabis growers. Moreover, his projects have proven instrumental in documenting the many untold histories of California and the West.

Oral History Projects

Featured Projects

California Cannabis Oral History Project

For well over fifty years, California has stood as the seedbed of cannabis. This Project takes the first step in developing a true historical record on cannabis in California by conducting in-depth interviews with the principal growers in the state’s legacy regions. From Big Sur to tri-county farms of the Emerald Triangle, the growers of these regions not only came to revolutionize cannabis in the U.S., but later the world. Here, their history is told for the first time.

This project is a partnership between the Oral History Center at UC Berkeley and the 420 Archive, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of cannabis history. The project also operates in partnership with Origins Council, a non-profit that works with legacy growers in the effort to obtain cannabis appellations.


Oliver Bates

President of Big Sur Farmers Association

Latinx – LA / LA Artist Oral History Project

David Lamelas

“My Mother’s Maiden Name,” Joey Terrill, 1980


In 2017, The Getty Center initiated the exhibition Pacific Standard Time: LA/ LA, a far-reaching series of exhibitions across Southern California that explored Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. In connection with this exhibition, The Getty Center sponsored life history interviews with selected Chicana/o and Latina/o artists, many of whom were featured in the LA/ LA programs.

Rubén Ortiz-Torres

The Art of Cultural Reimaginings

Public Release Forthcoming

California Coastal Commission Oral History Project

1972 Prop 20 Campaign

California Coast

Peter Douglas

In 1972, the citizens of California voted overwhelmingly to create a new agency charged with regulating all development along the state’s coastline. That agency became known as the California Coastal Commission. This project captures the history of this important agency through oral history interviews with former commissioners, staff, and community affiliates. In addition to the transcripts, these interviews also form the basis for the forthcoming podcast series Coastal Tales: The Long Struggle to Preserve California’s Coast.


Mel Nutter

Former Coastal Commissioner

Gary Patton

Environmental Lawyer

Coastal Advocate

County Supervisor, Santa Cruz

Alan Sieroty

State Assemblyman and Senator

Author of the original Coastal Legislation

Individual Oral Histories by Topic

California Politics

Bill Lockyer

Treasurer of California, 2007–2015

Attorney General of California, 1999–2007

President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, 1994–1998

Member of the California State Senate, 1982–1996

Member of the California State Assembly, 1973–1982

Fran Pavley

Member of the California State Senate, 2008-2016

Member of the California State Assembly, 2000-2006

Member of the Agoura Hills City Council, 1982-1990

Lois Wolk

Member of the California State Senate, 2008-2016

Member of the California State Assembly, 2002-2008

Member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, 1998-2002

Member of the Davis City Council, 1990-1998

Getty Trust & Arts

Neville Agnew: Thirty Years of Cultural Heritage Site Conservation with the Getty Trust

Neville AgnewNeville Agnew is a senior specialist on field projects at the Getty Conservation Institute. Raised in South Africa, he earned a PhD in chemistry and, after a decade of teaching, became one of the pioneers in the developing discipline of heritage site conservation. In 1987, he joined the GCI as the Deputy Director of the Institute’s science program. His work in heritage site conservation has spanned the globe over the decades, from the Laetoli hominid trackway in Tanzania, to the Queen’s Valley in Egypt, to the Mogao Buddhist grottoes in China. In this oral history, he discusses the significant projects of his career, the rise of conservation science, and the future of the discipline.

SF/Bay Area History

Rick Laubscher: Forty Years of Giving Back to San Francisco, From KRON to Market Street Railway

Rick Laubscher is an award-winning journalist, public relations executive, and founder of Market Street Railway in San Francisco. A fourth generation San Franciscan, Rick’s long career in journalism, business, and civic activism has centered on his beloved city. In this oral history, he discusses the Laubscher family business and his childhood in San Francisco; his years as a television reporter in the city, especially his coverage of the Moscone assassination; his public relations career at the Bechtel Corporation; and the many civic activities he undertook, principally the founding of Market Street Railway

Jim Chappell: Directing the Resurgence of SPUR & Urban Planning in San Francisco

Jim Chappell is an urban planner and the former director of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). During his twenty-five-year directorship, SPUR addressed of host of planning-related issues in the San Francisco Bay Area, from waterfront development and the construction of Giants Stadium to new transportation and housing projects. In this interview, Chappell discusses the many facets of urban design and ecological planning that SPUR addressed on a number of key issues and projects during his tenure. The interview also documents Chappell’s successful efforts to revitalize this important nonprofit agency that has served the San Francisco Bay Area for over a century.

Intellectual History/Higher Ed

Robert Allen: From Segregated Atlanta to UC Berkeley, A Life of Activism and African American Scholarship

Robert AllenRobert L. Allen is an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and professor of African-American Studies. Born in 1942, he grew up in segregated Atlanta where he experienced firsthand both the harsh realities of racism and the growth of the Civil Rights Movement within the Black community. He later moved to New York City and began a career in journalism as the first Black reporter for the National Guardian. Allen then moved to San Francisco in 1968, where he earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco, and transitioned from a career in journalism to one of scholarship focused on the African American experience. His book, The Port Chicago Munity, played a significant role in the creation of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial.

Michael B. Teitz: Fifty Years of Planning and Policy, from U.C. Berkeley to the Public Policy Institute of California

Michael B. Teitz is Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a Senior Fellow and Director of Economy at the Public Policy Institute of California, which he helped establish. In this interview he discusses growing up in London during and after World War II; the various events and changes he experienced at UC Berkeley between 1962 and 1998; and leaving Berkeley to establish PPIC and serving as its founding Research Director.

California Agriculture

Lawrence Sambado: A Life and Family Business in California Agriculture

Lawrence Sambado and sonsLawrence Sambado is an agriculturalist in Linden, California. Born in 1938, he is the head of Sambado and Sons, an operation that specializes in the growing, packing, and marketing of walnuts, cherries, and apples under their Primavera and Prima Frutta labels. He is a graduate of UC Davis, where he earned a degree in Pomology before returning to Linden to join his father in the family business.

Under Lawrence’s direction, the operations of Sambado and Sons expanded significantly, becoming one of the largest operations of cherries and walnuts in California. In this interview, Lawrence discusses the history of the Sambado and Boggiano families; the farming community of Linden; the practices of walnut and cherry growing and how such practices have changed over the decades; as well as the growth of the family business and the challenges faced today in the new era of agriculture.