When UC Berkeley's Regional Oral History Office announced last week that it was beginning research on a Bay Bridge project, a question leapt to mind: UC Berkeley has a Regional Oral History Office?

Yep, it's been around since 1954 -- as a division of the Bancroft Library -- dedicated to preserving the history of the Bay Area and the western United States by "conducting carefully researched, tape-recorded and transcribed interviews" of those who were witness to the past.

The Bay Bridge project is timed to coincide with the dismantling of the eastern span. Research specialist Sam Redman is seeking recollections of those who watched it go up, helped build it and witnessed how lives were changed.

"One of the surprises is the extent to which it was used right away," he said. "Real traffic was double or triple the projections."

The oral history office has meticulously documented projects ranging from arts and literature to social movement to politics to science and technology, preserving poignant slices of history....