The Wildwoods Oral History Project

Project Overview

The Wildwoods Oral History Project is an independent research project that collected the personal histories of year-round residents of the Southern New Jersey resort towns of North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest in the summer and fall of 2002. The specific focus of the interviews is on the period after World War II to the present and encompasses issues of shifting economic and tourism patterns, the impact of the personal automobile in New Jersey history, changes in demographics in the Southern New Jersey region, the impact of the area's seasonal economy on its year-round residents, and general anecdotal history of the major events of the latter half of the 20th century as seen from the small coastal municipalities of the Wildwoods.

The Oral History Method, Interview Subjects and Interview Topics

The research method of oral history interviewing was selected for this project for a variety of reasons. The post-war period time constraint ensured that a majority of significant members of the community are still living and able to speak at length and with clarity about their lives, professions and impact on the city. The cultural impact of the Wildwoods in the '50s and '60s, especially in the entertainment field, has a rich and untapped anecdotal history that is significant to the history of popular American music. The oral history method is also significant for its inclusion of minority histories, especially of the rich history of the Wildwoods' black community. Oral history interviews also reveal the personal minutiae that contributes greatly to the understanding of everyday life in Southern New Jersey in the post-war period. Many of such minority histories, daily details, and personal anecdotes are not included in traditional historical documents.

Interview subjects for the Wildwoods Oral History Project were selected by a variety of criteria: How long have they lived in the area? What significance had they/their business/their family played in the history of the area? How much are they impacting the future course of change in the Wildwoods? What was their ability and willingness to participate in a project whose final outcome would be part of public archive? Special attention was paid to selection of subject to represent a fair cross-section the area's economic range, ethnic and racial mix and age distribution. Care was also taken to select subjects from each of the three municipalities.

Compliance with Oral History Documentation Standards

The oral history interviews were conducted as described by the New Jersey Historical Commission's "Statement on Interviewing for Historical Documentation" and the book "Doing Oral History" by Donald A. Richie, former president of the Oral History Association. Each subject was given an Informed Consent contract in advance of the interview. At the conclusion of each interview session, the subject signed an Interviewee Release/Dead of Gift form. Copies of these documents will be included in each bound, final transcript collection.