Feb. 6: One-Day Oral History Training Workshops with OHMA (2016)


OHMA is hosting a weekend workshop event on Saturday, February 6, 2016 (originally scheduled for Saturday, January 23rd, 2016). Join us for an intensive day of oral history workshops with OHMA faculty and alumni! See schedules, room assignments, course descriptions and faculty bios below.

Dear registered workshop participants –

The blizzard watch has just been extended to New York City, and unfortunately we are going to have to reschedule these workshops for Saturday, February 6. We regret any inconvenience this may cause. If you can attend on the 6th, you can just stay registered as you are. If you cannot attend on the 6th, we will issue a refund, which you can request through Eventbrite. There are waitlists for most of the sessions, so if you cannot make it to the new date do let us know so someone else can register.

We do want to let you know about an upcoming event that may be of interest: On Thursday, January 28, OHMA will be hosting its last open house of the yearThis event will include an overview of our program, a one-year interdisciplinary MA in oral history method and theory, and a listening party where we will hear some of the oral histories recorded by OHMA alum Nicole JeanBaptiste for her thesis, about Black women’s intergenerational experiences with childbirth and their relationship to the legacy of traditional birthing practitioners in the American South. You can RSVP here. The application fee to apply to OHMA is waived for those who will be attending our February 6 workshops, so feel free to stop by next Thursday and learn more about our program.

Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to seeing you in February!

Best regards,
Amy Starecheski
Associate Director, OHMA


Cost: $30-$100 per workshop, sliding scale.

Please pay what you can. We suggest a minimum of $30 for students, recent graduates, or others who are financially constrained, while we suggest that professionals and those with more resources pay more. All profits from these events go towards our annual merit scholarship for an exceptionally promising incoming OHMA student.

Location: Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University. See below for room assignments, which vary by course [Campus map.]

Schedule at a Glance:

9:30AM-12:30PM Selection of introductory workshops

  • Oral History and Research, with Mary Marshall Clark. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Educators, with Amy Starecheski. Register.
  • Introduction to Community-Based Oral History, with Suzanne Snider. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Writers, with Svetlana Kitto. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, with Nicki Pombier Berger. Register.


2PM-5PM Selection of focused workshops

  • Oral History and Human Rights Work, with Mary Marshall Clark. Register.
  • Oral History and the Practice of Buddhist Deep Listening, with Erica Fugger. Register.
  • Oral History’s Applications, with Sara Sinclair. Register.
  • Oral History and Documentary, with Suzanne Snider. Register.
  • Archiving Oral Histories, with Sady Sullivan. Register.

Morning Workshops, 9:30AM-12:30PM

Oral History and Research, Mary Marshall Clark
604 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is a form of biographical, social, economic, political and cultural research – contributing to an understanding of the many ways in which the past influences our thinking about the present and the future. This workshop will focus on ways in which oral history as a form of interdisciplinary research can contribute new knowledge and the development of unique primary sources.  Practical aspects of the workshop will include thinking about how to design oral history research projects, and how to read and analyze narrative sources.


Introduction to Oral History for Educators, Amy Starecheski
930 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history can be a powerful tool in the classroom, transforming students into engaged researchers from the elementary grades through graduate school.  This workshop will provide a focused introduction to oral history specifically tailored to the needs of educators. Participants will be guided through the process of designing and executing an oral history project and thinking through how to use oral history to meet their teaching goals. This workshop is suitable for educators working in formal and informal settings, with any age group, and across the disciplines.


Introduction to Community-Based Oral History, Suzanne Snider
607 Schermerhorn Hall

Have you been dreaming about starting an oral history project in/for your community? This workshop will offer the tools you need to get started, beginning with an introduction to oral history and moving toward our focus on working in and with communities on oral history projects. Using a few specific projects as case studies, we’ll learn how to approach and design a project that emphasizes oral history values and best practices, including collaboration, shared ownership, and reciprocity. We’ll discuss common pitfalls, as well. Participants will be provided with resources including project design worksheets, sample community partnership contracts, and examples of project cards. This workshop is for community advocates, community historians, beginning oral historians, among others. All are welcome.


Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, Nicki Pombier Berger
934 Schermerhorn Hall

Are you passionate about social change, and interested in how to use oral historical practice for your cause? In this workshop, we will look at how the tools and ethics of oral history can be used to advance specific change-goals. We’ll spend the first half of the workshop reviewing projects that have leveraged oral history for social change, identifying what oral history contributes to, or where it differs from, other forms of documentation or storytelling modes. The second half of the workshop will be dedicated to developing participants’ own ideas for using oral history to advocate for specific social change. Participants will leave with a project design outline and resources for developing their ideas beyond the workshop.   


Introduction to Oral History for Writers, Svetlana Kitto
832 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is an interdisciplinary tool that has the power to bring more complexity, multivocality and urgency to writing of any genre. For writers interested in documenting unheard voices, undertold stories, or generally enlivening their work with the historical phenomenon of everyday speech, this workshop will introduce oral history interviewing techniques as both a theoretical and practical mode of writing about the world. Students will practice interviewing and writing using oral history methods, as well as read texts from a variety of periods and perspectives to get them thinking about their own complex points-of-view in this historical moment.


Afternoon Workshops: 2PM-5PM


Archiving Oral Histories, Sady Sullivan
930 Schermerhorn Hall

Archives are where societal memory is preserved for generations to come. Archives can also be hubs for community engagement. In this workshop, we will discuss how to ensure that the interviews you collect today will be available in 5, 25, 150+ years. Participants will learn best practices for storing both born-digital and analog collections; tips and tools for keeping a project organized; why “metadata is a love note to the future”; and what to consider when donating a collection to an archival repository. We will explore open source digital tools for building online archives, and discuss how to ethically consider issues of privacy as well as how critical librarianship brings social justice principles into the work of libraries and archives.


Oral History and Documentary, Suzanne Snider
607 Schermerhorn Hall

For those interested in oral history and other nonfiction forms (film, audio, print), this workshop explores the dynamic possibilities that await us at the intersection of oral history and documentary. How can we most effectively and ethically combine a longform interview practice with the editorial rigor at the heart of radio, film, and journalism? How can documentarians preserve and make use of oral history practices and values as guiding editorial principles? What kinds of compromises are necessary when it comes to editing interviews that we have come to appreciate, uncut? We will discuss motives and methods for bring an oral history sensibility to our documentary work (or vice versa) while surveying inspiring examples of hybrid forms. This workshop is appropriate for documentarians, oral historians, and those with a general interest in nonfiction. All are welcome.


Oral History and Human Rights Work, Mary Marshall Clark
604 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is increasingly used in human rights work to engage in historical dialogues, advocacy and the gathering of testimony in societies engaged in conflict and post-conflict situations.   Oral history methodologies can be used by human rights advocates in multiple ways: a) to discover the real, daily life needs of vulnerable people, b) to advocate for social and political change based on that real knowledge; c) to develop ways of engaging, through in-depth interviews, across lines of social and cultural difference; and d), to construct opportunities for critical dialogues based on models of social change that emerge out of oral history stories about the past, the present and visions of the future. In this workshop we will discuss models of oral historical dialogues in human rights work, breaking down the components of successful transformational practice. Participants are encouraged to bring their own experiences in human rights and oral history work to the workshop.


Oral History and the Practice of Buddhist Deep Listening, Erica Fugger
832 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral historian Jacquelyn Hall once defined the term “deep listening” as: “Listening beyond and beneath words. Listening for layers of meaning, for the cacophony of voices embedded in every story… Listening, too, for the unscripted, for the memories that hurtle to the surface for the first time, with a force that can make you rage or weep.” Comparably, Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh grounds the humanistic application of deep listening within the ability of the listener to relieve the suffering of the storyteller by offering undivided attention and compassion. This workshop will therefore examine the convergence of oral history methodology with the Buddhist practices of mindfulness, body awareness, and meditations on compassion. It will explore techniques for fostering a sense of openness to rapport-building, emotional exchanges, and extended periods of deep listening. Participants are encouraged to attend the workshop well-rested and be eager to engage in interactive exercises.


Oral History’s Applications, with Sara Sinclair
934 Schermerhorn Hall

Once largely viewed as a resource for future researchers and relegated to the archives, today oral history practice is more often directed towards active outcomes. In this workshop we will consider how to engage different aspects of our work, and use different editing practices, to apply our interviews to different forms, including literary narrative, teaching tool and materials for advocacy. We will ask how the impact we want our interviews to have should direct the forms we present them in. We will get specific as we play with narratives to convert them from one form to another, thinking though how various incarnations lend themselves to various intentions, and reach different audiences. Throughout, we will contemplate how to stay true to oral history’s distinct ethics and ideals while pursuing various expressions of it. This workshop is suitable for people just beginning an oral history project, or for those interested in putting an existing collection of interviews to work in new ways.

Faculty Bios:

Nicki Pombier Berger is an oral historian who works at the intersection of intellectual disability and social change. She has an MA in Oral History from Columbia University, where she was a Graduate Fellow in the Future of Disability Studies Working Group at the Center for the Study of Social Difference. Her graduate thesis, Nothing About Us Without Us, is an online collection of stories she collaboratively produced with self-advocates with Down syndrome. She is the oral historian on A Fierce Kind of Love, an oral history-based civil engagement project by Temple University’s Institute for Disabilities, for which she coordinated and curated interviews for an exhibit that opened at the Pennsylvania state capitol in October 2015, entitled Here: Stories from Selinsgrove and KenCrest Services. From 2013-2014, she produced the TILL Living Legacy Project, an oral history-based training curriculum for Toward Independent Living and Learning, a service agency for people with intellectual disabilities in Massachusetts, and is currently leading a pilot to expand the project throughout the agency. She has taught workshops on oral history and advocacy to a range of audiences, and in summer 2015, she co-taught a workshop at Oral History Summer School on Mixed Ability Interviewing. In addition to her work on intellectual disability, Nicki is a research fellow for Columbia University’s Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, teaches at the New School for Drama, and is the Founding Editor of Underwater New York. She has an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Bachelor of Science in the Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Mary Marshall Clark is the director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR).  Mary Marshall is also the co-founder and co-director of Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts degree program. Mary Marshall has been involved in the oral history movement since 1991, and was president of the Oral History Association in 2001-2002.  She was a founding member of the International Oral History Association. Mary Marshall teaches and writes on issues of memory, the mass media, trauma, and ethics in oral history. She was the co-principal investigator, with Peter Bearman, of the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, and directed related projects on the aftermath of September 11th in New York City.  Mary Marshall’s current work focuses on the global impact of U.S. torture and detention policies, focusing on Guantánamo.  Mary Marshall is an editor of After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 11, 2001 and the Years that Followed, published by The New Press in September 2011.

Erica Fugger is a New York-based oral historian whose focus lies in examining the personal narratives underpinning revolutions and social movements. She currently serves as President of the Columbia Oral History Alumni Association and Project Coordinator of the Oral History M.A. program, of which she is a recent graduate. Erica’s previous experience includes managing the historic collections of the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives, conducting oral histories for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center, and teaching interviewing workshops around the New York metropolitan area. As an Atlantic Philanthropies Research Fellow at INCITE, she coordinates the Wake Up Oral History Project, which uses oral history as a form of community and capacity building for a transnational Buddhist youth movement in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh.

Svetlana Kitto, an OHMA alum, is a writer and oral historian in New York City. Her fiction, journalism and essays have appeared in Salon, VICE, the New York Observer, the Huffington Post, ART21, OutHistory, Plenitude and the book Occupy (Verso, 2012) among other publications and anthologies. She has contributed interviews to oral history projects with the Museum of Arts and Design, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Brooklyn Historical Society, where she developed and taught a writing workshop called Racial Realities: Writing About Race in the First Person. She co-curates the reading and performance series Adult Contemporary in NYC.

Sara Sinclair grew up in Toronto, Canada. Before moving to New York City to attend Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts program, Sara lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she conducted an oral history project for the International Labor Organization. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Athabasca University, Sara’s previous work is in the fields of theatre performance and broadcast journalism. Sara has conducted oral histories for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and on the closure of New York gallery/artist’s space Exit Art. Sara currently works at the Columbia Center for Oral History Research, where she is program manager of the Robert Rauschenberg Oral History project. Her own work explores the narratives of Native North Americans from tribal communities, who attend elite academic institutions and go home to work after school.

Suzanne Snider is a writer-documentarian-educator whose work is deeply influenced by oral history theory and practice. Recent projects include a processional sound installation in Hudson, New York (Automotive Archive), essays, and archive design. In 2012, she founded Oral History Summer School, an interdisciplinary training program in upstate New York. She consults frequently for institutions and project teams including MoMA, Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Prison Public Memory Project, on oral history-related challenges. Her writing and audio work have appeared in The Guardian, The Believer, and The Washington Post, along with several anthologies and artist catalogues. Snider teaches at the New School for Public Engagement and served as a visiting lecturer at Columbia University (OHMA) in spring 2014. With support from the Yaddo Corporation, the MacDowell Colony and the UCross Foundation Center, she is currently completing her first book, Commune of One.

Amy Starecheski is a cultural anthropologist and oral historian whose research focuses on the use of oral history in social movements. Since 2012, she was been the Associate Director of the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University. She consults and lectures widely on oral history education and methods, and is co-author of the Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide. She was a lead interviewer on Columbia’s September 11, 2001 Narrative and Memory Project, for which she interviewed Afghans, Muslims, Sikhs, activists, low-income people, and the unemployed.  Starecheski is a member of the Core Working Group for Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change, where she facilitates the Practitioner Support Network. In 2015 she won the Oral History Association’s article award for “Squatting History: The Power of Oral History as a History-Making Practice.” She received a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center and her first book, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

Sady Sullivan is Curator for the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library where she cares for the oldest oral history collection in the United States. From 2006 - 2014, Sady was Director of Oral History at Brooklyn Historical Society, where she led nine oral history projects and managed the preservation of the legacy oral history collections. At Brooklyn Historical Society, Sady created Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations, an award-winning oral history project, racial justice dialogue series, and digital humanities site exploring mixed-heritage identity.

Mar. 28: TOGETHER WE LISTEN: The New York Public Library Unveils Our Open Transcript Correction Tool!

Columbia's Digital Humanities Center and
Oral History MA Program
Invite You To...

TOGETHER WE LISTEN: The New York Public Library Unveils Our Open Transcript Correction Tool!

Test out our newly developed transcript correction tool + tell us what you think.

WHEN: Monday, March 28th from 3:00 - 5:00pm

WHERE: Studio@Butler - 208b Butler Library

Please RSVP to AlexandraKelly@nypl.org

The New York Public Library is launching an exciting new campaign we call Together We Listen, in partnership with The Moth and Pop Up Archive!

With the support of a recent Knight Foundation grant, we're hoping to make 1,000+ hours of personal stories from the NYPL Community Oral History Project archive truly accessible for the first time.

But...how? NYPL's NEW Open Transcript Correction Tool!

We're inviting you to join us as we unveil our new tool and test it out! At this event, you will...

  • MEET the tool developers from NYPL Labs, our digital innovation team
  • LISTEN to audio from our Harlem neighborhood oral history project
  • TEST out our Open Transcript Correction Tool and help to shape its future development!

Pizza will be provided. Bring your own laptop (but let us know in your RSVP if you need one).