Oral history is an art. The practice of oral history is creative -- in interviews we make narratives together with our interviewees, imagining worlds, telling stories, creating characters. Oral history can also be used to document the arts, to tell the stories of painters and dancers and actors and writers and the worlds they live in. And the arts are a powerful means to amplify and interpret oral histories, transforming them into literary narratives, building theater or music or dance performances from them, using them to create documentaries. This year, we will explore all of these many intersections of oral history and the arts, asking what unique contributions an oral history approach can make to artistic practice, and how oral history can help us to think about art and its role in the world.
In this post, current OHMA student Monica Liuting (2016) reflects how Terrell Frazier uses oral history interviews to frame personal experiences in political expressions. This article is the last in a four-part series exploring Terrell’s recent OHMA Workshop Series lecture, “Becoming an Organizer: Narrative, Identity and Social Action.”
In this piece, Nialah Edari discusses how Terrell Frazier’s work contrasts the ways in which we contextualize sociology and oral history by looking at how he applies both approaches in his assessment of the participants within his research. This article is the last in a three-part series exploring Terrell’s recent OHMA Workshop Series lecture, “Becoming an Organizer: Narrative, Identity and Social Action.”
In this post, Brian Sarfo explores how Terrell Frazier's work situates the importance of relationships and humanizing the organizer through sociology and oral history. This article is the first in a three-part series exploring Terrell Frazier’s recent OHMA Workshop Series lecture, “Becoming an Organizer: Narrative, Identity and Social Action.”
In this post, OHMA student Elyse Blennerhassett (2016) discusses how Dr. Leslie Robertson’s community-generated and collaborative methodologies inform her own practice in working with communities who are politically marginalized and stigmatized in the criminal justice system. This article is the first in a two-part series exploring Dr. Robertson’s recent OHMA Workshop Series lecture, “Devalued Subjectivities: Disciplines, Voices and Publics.”
In this post, Heather Michael shares insight from an OHMA Workshop Series presentation by Dr. Mindy Fullilove on her work on situation analysis. Heather explores how Dr. Fullilove’s work illustrates what it means to research through interdisciplinary approaches and raises questions for future researchers to consider.
In this post, Chinonye Alma Otuonye explores the dialogic space as a mechanism towards a human understanding of the self and history. She reflects on the ways John Kuo Wei Tchen—NYU professor, historian, and curator—decolonizes both space and history within and through his work.
This article is the first in a three-part series exploring Tchen’s recent OHMA Workshop Series lecture, “Below the Grid.”
This article is the third and final in a three-part series examining the Brooklyn Historical Society’s ongoing oral history project “Voices of Crown Heights.” In this post, current OHMA student Meave Sheehan (2016) looks at what it means to “live” a public policy and how oral history can be used to uncover both noticeable and more subtle changes over time.
This article is the second in a three-part series examining the Brooklyn Historical Society’s ongoing oral history project “Voices of Crown Heights.” In this piece, current OHMA student Rachel Unkovic (2016) focuses on how oral history can illuminate (rather than obfuscate) historical narrative even in times of confusion and conflicting ideas.
This article is the first in a three-part series examining the Brooklyn Historical Society’s ongoing oral history project “Voices of Crown Heights.” In this post, current OHMA student Dina Asfaha (2016) writes that Zaheer Ali's project is a prime example of the need for oral history in understanding society. She proposes that Ali does an exemplary job of situating people's narratives in their respective historical contexts and putting those narratives in conversation with one another in order to deduce conclusions about how gentrification in Crown Heights can be understood today.
Earlier this fall, OHMA students Emma Courtland (2016) and Robin Miniter (2016) met in a third story apartment in Hamilton Heights to “narrate their photos.” Using a modification of the methods used by artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani to put walking tours, photography, and memory in conversation about the experience of gentrification in Prospect Heights, Courtland and Miniter planned to use photography and oral history to explore their changing relationships to the city. They then visited the places depicted in their photos. This is the story of one of those photos.
In this post, current OHMA BA/MA student Rozanne Gooding Silverwood (2015) reflects on the art of transcription and offers her perspective on how the NYPL Community Oral History Project might increase the enlistment of volunteer transcribers by educating prospective participants about the literary history and aesthetic value of rendering the spoken word to text.
In this post, Heather Michael, shares insight from a presentation by Christopher Allen on the intersection between his beliefs about art and politics vis-à-vis the creation of Living Los Sures, a multifaceted, six-year documentary project about the community of Southside, Williamsburg.
In this post about Christopher Allen's recent lecture in our 2016-2017 Oral History Workshop Series, current OHMA student Christina Pae (2015) reflects on the importance of collaboration in oral history projects, particularly when an outsider aims to conduct a project within an insular community.
Nyssa Chow (2015) is an OHMA student and Teaching Fellow in our Method, Theory, and Interpretation course this fall through Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Her work with OHMA Co-Director Mary Marshall Clark to transform oral history by teaching visual literacy recently received Columbia’s Faculty Provost Award. In this post, Nyssa reflects on ethnopoetric transcription through Della Pollock and Hudson Vaughan’s talk in our Oral History Workshop Series this spring and discusses her experiences in visually expressing her narrators’ orality in print.
Oral History and the City, Fall 2016: What can oral histories tell us about life at the scale of the city? About how people make their homes in neighborhoods, or think of themselves as urban citizens? How can the practice of oral history be used as an intervention in urban life? Taking New York City as a lab, this series will explore oral history in and of the city.
Oral History and the Social Sciences, Spring 2017: Oral history is a practice with deep roots in the archive and in the discipline of history, where oral history is a unique and valuable genre of primary source. But what happens when we treat oral histories as data for sociological, anthropological or geographic research? Or use the tools of the social sciences to study oral history as a social practice? Is it possible, or desirable, to generalize from the particular and complex narratives of the oral history interview? In this series we will explore the tensions and possibilities at the interdisciplinary seams of oral history and the social sciences.
Nyssa Chow is a current OHMA student. In this post, she responds to Paul Ortiz's recent talk on "Oral History in the Age of Black Lives Matter" by offering reflections on her personal experiences and fears amidst the current landscape of American culture and politics.