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A preview of the 2014 OHA Annual Meeting

In a few months, Troy and I hope to welcome you all to the 2014 Oral History Association (OHA) Annual Meeting, “Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations, and the Power of Story.” This year’s meeting will take place in our lovely, often frozen hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, from 8-12 October 2014. I am sure most of you have already registered and booked your hotel room. For those of you still dragging your feet, hopefully these letters from OHA Vice President/President Elect Paul Ortiz and Program Committee co-chairs Natalie Fousekis and Kathy Newfont will kick you into gear.

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Madison, Wisconsin. The capitol city of the Badger State evokes images of social movements of all kinds. This includes the famed “Wisconsin Idea,” a belief put forth during an earlier, tumultuous period of American history that this place was to become a “laboratory for democracy,” where new ideas would be developed to benefit the entire society. In subsequent years, Madison became equally famous for the Madison Farmers Market, hundreds of locally-owned businesses, live music, and a top-ranked university. Not to mention world-famous cafes, microbreweries, and brewpubs! [Editor’s note: And fried cheese curds!] Our theme, “Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations and the Power of Story,” is designed to speak directly to the rich legacies of Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, as well as to the interests and initiatives of our members. Early on, we decided to define “movements” broadly — and inclusively — to encompass popular people’s struggles, as well as the newer, exciting technological changes oral history practitioners are implementing in our field.

Creating this year’s conference has been a collaborative effort. Working closely with the OHA executive director’s office, our program and local arrangements committees have woven together an annual meeting with a multiplicity of themes, as well as an international focus tied together by our belief in the transformative power of storytelling, dialog, and active listening. Our panels also reflect the diversity of our membership’s interests. You can attend sessions ranging from the historical memories of the Haitian Revolution and the future of the labor movement in Wisconsin to the struggles of ethnic minority refugees from Burma. We’ll explore the legacies left by story-telling legends like Pete Seeger and John Handcox, even as we learn new narratives from Latina immigrants, digital historians and survivors of sexual abuse.

Based on the critical input we’ve received from OHA members, this year’s annual meeting in will build on the strengths and weaknesses of previous conferences. New participants will have the opportunity to be matched with veteran members through the OHA Mentoring Program. We will also invite all new members to the complimentary Newcomers’ Breakfast on Friday morning. Building on its success at last year’s annual meeting, we are also holding Interest Group Meetings on Thursday, in order to help members continue to knit together national—and international—networks. The conference program features four hands-on oral history workshops on Wednesday, and a “Principles and Best Practices for Oral History Education (grades 4-12)” workshop on Saturday morning. This year’s plenary and special sessions are also superb.

With such an exciting program, it is little wonder that early pre-registration was so high! I hope that you will join us in Madison, Wisconsin for what will be one of the most memorable annual meetings in OHA history!

In Solidarity,
Paul Ortiz
OHA Vice President/President Elect

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The 2014 OHA Annual Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin is shaping up to be an especially strong conference. The theme, “Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations and the Power of Story,” drew a record number of submissions. As a result, the slate of concurrent sessions includes a wide variety of high quality work. We anticipate that most conference-goers will, even more so than most years, find it impossible to attend all sessions that pique their interest!

The local arrangements team in Madison has done a wonderful job lining up venues for the meeting and its special sessions, including sites on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Madison Public Library. The meeting will showcase some of Madison’s richest cultural offerings. For instance, we will open Wednesday evening in Sterling Hall with an innovative, oral-history inspired performance on the 1970 bomb explosion, which proved a key flashpoint in the Vietnam-era anti-war movement. After Thursday evening’s Presidential Reception, we will hear a concert by Jazz Master bassist Richard Davis — who will also do a live interview Saturday evening.

In keeping with our theme, many of our feature presentations will address past and present fights for social and political change. Thursday afternoon’s mixed-media plenary session will focus on the music and oral poetry of sharecropper “poet laureate” John Handcox, whose songs continue to inspire a broad range of justice movements in the U.S. and beyond. Friday morning’s “Academics as Activists” plenary session will offer a report from the front lines of contemporary activism. It will showcase an interdisciplinary panel of scholars who have emerged as leading voices in recent pushes for social change in Wisconsin, North Carolina and nationwide. The Friday luncheon keynote will feature John Biewen of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, who has earned recognition for—among other things—his excellent work on disadvantaged groups. Finally, on Friday evening we will screen Private Violence, a film featured at this year’s Sundance festival. Private Violence examines domestic violence, long a key concern in women’s and children’s rights movements. The event will be hosted by Associate Producer Malinda Maynor Lowery, who is also Director of the University of North Carolina’s Southern Oral History Program.

Join us for all this and much more!

Natalie Fousekis and Kathy Newfont
Program Committee

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See you all in October!

Headline image credit: Resources of Wisconsin. Edwin Blashfield’s mural “Resources of Wisconsin”, Wisconsin State Capitol dome, Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Jeremy Atherton. CC BY 2.0 via jatherton Flickr.

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