News Brief: The Latest in Oral History

Kate Brenner is a current OHMA student studying the history and importance of St. Augustine's Church in the African American community on the Lower East Side of New York City. In our new series, Kate marshals new developments related to oral history.

One of the exciting things about the field of oral history is that it has such broad applications, what you can do with it seems endless. Of course, that also means there’s a lot of oral history- related content available. I have put my fondness for reading things on the internet to use, creating a highly subjective roundup of interesting oral history- related links. Some I picked for the topic, some for the application, all because I found them intriguing. This weekly list is only a tiny fraction of what I come across from my Google alert, links from classmates and professors, and what I stumble upon naturally.  

As an oral historian, and someone who has worked with K-8 students, I think it’s great to see oral history being used to engage kids. This article uses Black History Month to highlight the Children’s Oral History Project at the African American Museum of Iowa as an educational tool, where the interviews (both video and transcript available) are conducted by kids.

Oxford University Press did a follow up Q and A with Katie Kuszmar, the author of From Boat to Throat: How Oral Histories Immerse Students in Ecoliteracy and Community Building, going into more depth about her experiences of doing oral history projects with students.

An intern at the Southern Oral History Project shares her reflection on working with the oral histories there, and emphasizes that their archives are accessible online for anyone to browse.

After the death of Norman Bridwell, the author of the beloved Clifford children’s books, a museum in Martha's Vineyard decided to curate an exhibit on pets, including clips of oral histories where people talked about their animals.

While many people know StoryCorps, they might not know about the different initiatives they have. Some have been highlighted in the news recently, including telling stories of Latin@s, LGBT stories, and soon StoryCorps will be telling New Orleans post-Katrina stories, with an emphasis on getting a broad spectrum of people to come and share their experiences.

Since moving to New York from Wisconsin, I’ve discovered just how homogenous people assume the Midwest is, so it’s great to see there’s a new oral history book documenting Hmong lives in Michigan. As a bonus, the author even included a few recipes for the reader to try.

Oral history is often used for institutional histories, but I never considered focusing on the oral history of a relatively small hospital in Virginia. It’s a topic I didn’t expect, but it allows you to take a look into healthcare, and the interviews are all right there for you to watch.

Another easily accessible online collection, this one chronicles the oral history of dance in Western Australia.

Oral history has the capacity to be used for really interesting creative pieces. "Vignettes: Ellis Island," takes stories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project, turning the journey to America into a musical piece, one that many listeners were able to personally connect with.

Technology is a neverending subject of discussion for oral history, but sometimes even simple shifts can make it much more accessible. The Cultural Landscape Foundation is moving its videos to YouTube, making them viewable on your phone. This is especially relevant because their videos talk about architects and their work, so now you can stand in a place while hearing someone talk about it.

[Workshop Reflection] Who’s listening?

Once upon a time, oral histories were recorded solely by researchers who tucked them away neatly into archives deemed for academic research; many were never heard from again. However, with the variety of technology available today, many former methods have been called into question so that valuable records may be fully utilized by historians as well as non-historians.

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[Workshop Reflection] At school with Sewon

Perhaps, dear reader, you are a prospective OHMA student, researching the field or oral history, considering that next great leap of faith called graduate school.  Or perhaps you have taken that leap, you are an OHMA student, buried in reading, writing, and research with only a vague sense that one day you will be dumped out onto the cold, hard streets of New York with nothing but a shake of the hand and a stroll across the stage. 

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