Jonestown Audiotape Project Donated to San Diego State University

by Mark Fein

With the acquisition of more than 700 tapes through the Freedom of Information Act, the Jonestown Institute recognized the need to make them available to as many religion and history scholars – as well as people personally affected by the events of November 18, 1978 – as possile. To further knowledge and access of these materials and the events that produced them, the Jonestown Institute has donated copies of all the audiotapes, and printed hardcopies of all the transcripts and summaries to the San Diego State University Library Special Collections department archives.

By donating these materials to a public university, researchers and the public will be able not only to read the words of Jim Jones and his followers (available here), but will be able to listen to those words themselves in the library Special Collections department. The collection will also be easily accessible and searchable for anyone in person who is not comfortable with computers. Extended physical distribution of these materials will also insure the future existence of these materials beyond a vulnerability to electronic media storage.

To facilitate access to its archival collections to users in modern times, all public archive facilities naturally computerize information to help researchers and the public make the most of their collections. The Special Collections department of the San Diego State University Library is currently using the information already contained on the Jonestown Institute’s website, especially the audiotape summaries and transcripts, to create a standardized format Collection Finding Aid. This aid will be internet accessible and help anyone interested in reviewing these materials in person to do so. The information will also be transferred to both California and national, library archive database systems to better inform all libraries that this collection is available for use.

While more than 700 tapes have been donated to the library archive, approximately 100 of the audiotapes have been summarized and transcribed by the Jonestown Institute as of July 2003. As the transcript and summary process is ongoing, the Jonestown Institute will continue to donate those documents as they are completed, and the Special Collections department’s finding aids will expand accordingly.

The San Diego State University Library is honored to receive this collection and recognizes its importance. As the transcription of these tapes is in itself a historic and significant contribution to the field of Alternative Religious Movement study and general understanding of these events and similar groups, the donation of these materials to a public university’s library is a major contribution to researchers and humanity in general.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on March 15th, 2014.
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