Tim Cole’s article “(Re)Placing the Past: Spatial Strategies of Retelling Difficult Stories” in the most recent Oral History Review raises some really intriguing questions about the function of space and distance in oral history interviews. Cole graciously agreed to answer some of our questions over email, which we’ve reproduced here for your enjoyment.
Over the last few months, we’ve had the pleasure of publishing thoughtful reflections, compelling narratives, and deep engagements with what it means to do oral history. Each post was written by a member of the oral history community who was willing to share their thoughts and experiences with all of us. We received an incredible response from our last call for submissions, so we’re coming back again to ask for more.
“When I went to the Iv’ry Coast, about thirty years ago, I remember coming off the plane and just being assaulted with not only the heat but the color.” These were the first words of the most moving story I have ever heard—but it wasn’t the story I was there to collect. For me, the best oral histories are the ones that sound a human chord, stories that blur the spaces between historically significant narrative and personal development.
This week on the Oral History Review blog, we’re continuing our recognition of LGBTQ Pride month with a special podcast featuring Elspeth Brown. In the podcast, Brown discusses the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, as well as her work as a member of the community and a historian. Check out the links below for more information, and send us your proposals if you’d like to share your work with the OHR blog.
In recognition of Pride Month, we’re looking at some of the many oral history projects focused on preserving the memories of LGBTQ communities. The LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory is connecting archives across North America to produce a digital hub for the research and study of LGBTQ oral histories. The University of Chicago is cataloguing the history of students, faculty, and alumni for its “Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles” project. The University of Wisconsin – Madison continues to collect the histories of Madison’s LGBT Community, and has even prepared mini-movies to make the materials more accessible.
Ask anyone who has been to an Oral History Association annual meeting and they’ll tell you that one of the best parts of the conference is the people. The conference offers the chance to meet and learn from oral history veterans, as well as those just getting started in the field. This week on the blog, we’re highlighting the OHA mentorship program, which aims to help newcomers at the meeting to get the most out of the experience by partnering them with mentors. The program paired 47 mentors and newcomers at the 2014 conference, and hopes to connect even more people going forward.
After completing my first transcription process using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I was asked to transcribe an interview using Pop Up Archive, an online platform for storing, transcribing, and searching audio content developed by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). They explain the process in three steps: 1. You add any audio file. 2. We tag, index, and transcribe it automatically. 3. Your sound, in one place, searchable to the second.
Oral historians differ on the utility of retrieving participants’ full life stories, but we agree that “full” is a relative term. There is always much unsaid in any life’s retelling, and for a wide range reasons. Drawing on forty years of interviewing Holocaust survivors, I emphasize here that what is unsaid in early interviews often emerges in later ones. Indeed, later interviews may even become counter narratives to earlier recounting—a way for participants to tell us not to “peg” them too easily or too soon.
The most recent issue of the Oral History Review will be zipping across the world soon. To hold you over until it arrives, we interviewed one of the authors featured in this edition, Jennifer Helgren, about her article, “A ‘Very Innocent Time’: Oral History Narratives, Nostalgia and Girls’ Safety in the 1950s and 1960s.”
In the Fall of 2012, I decided to offer to conduct oral history interviews of Monmouth University’s student veterans to donate to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. I hadn’t conducted any oral histories since leaving government service the prior year. I missed the craft, and thought this a truly worthwhile endeavor.
I am a child of the internet age. I have never not had a computer in my house. Being in Columbia’s Oral History Master’s Program (OHMA), I’ve read articles for class that describe how oral historians recorded and edited audio in the past. Every time I read one of those articles, I call my mom, who used to work editing tape in the 70s and 80s. “How did you do it?” I ask. “How did you edit with a razor, with no undo button? If it was still like that, I would never have entered this field.”
In the most recent issue of the Oral History Review, Linda Shopes started an important discussion about changes she has seen in the field of oral history in “‘Insights and Oversights’: Reflections on the Documentary Tradition and the Theoretical Turn in Oral History”. Linda’s article sparked many interesting arguments on curation versus collection, critical analysis versus volume, and framing individual experiences in wider contexts. Below, we bring to you a continuation of this conversation through an email interview.
A few months ago, we asked you to tell us about the work you’re doing. Many of you responded, so for the next few months, we’re going to be publishing reflections, stories, and difficulties faced by fellow oral historians. This week, we bring you the first post in this series, focusing on a multimedia project from Mark Larson. We encourage you to engage with these posts by leaving comments on the post or on social media, or by reaching out directly to the authors.
This week, we’re excited to bring you another podcast, featuring Mark Cave, Stephen M. Sloan, and Managing Editor Troy Reeves. Cave and Sloan are the editors of a recently published book, Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis, which includes stories of practicing oral history in traumatic situations from around the world.
For our second blog post of 2015, we’re looking back at a great article from Katie Kuszmar in OHR 41.2, “From Boat to Throat: How Oral Histories Immerse Students in Ecoliteracy and Community Building.” In the article, Katie discussed a research trip she and her students used to record the oral histories of local fishing practices and to learn about sustainable fishing and consumption. We followed up with her over email to see what we could learn from high school oral historians, and what she has been up to since the article came out.
I sat down with Samantha Snyder, a Student Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, to talk about her work. From time to time, the UW Archives has students test various voice recognition programs, and for the last few months Samantha has been testing the software program Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This is an innovative way of processing oral histories, so we were excited to hear how it was going.