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.
Tan Yuhua was sixteen when the Imperial Japanese Army raided her hometown in Hunan Province in 1944. Her father, unable to move quickly because of a disabled leg, was easy prey. Forcing him to kneel, the soldiers threatened to kill him with a sword. Tan Yuhua couldn’t help crying out from her hiding place, so she too was caught.
Last April, we asked you to help us out with ideas for the Oral History Review’s blog. We got some great responses, and now we’re back to beg for more! We want to use our social media platforms to encourage discussion within the broad community oral historians, from professional historians to hobbyists.
You may have seen representatives of the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) at the OHA Annual Meeting this year. We rumbled down hallways in a pack six strong, all twenty-five years old and younger, all smiles, all ears, and all left feet.
Since we’re still recovering from eating way too much yesterday, Managing Editor Troy Reeves and I would like to sit back and just share a few of the things we’re thankful for.
This week, we bring you an interview with activist and historian Jeffrey W. Pickron. He and three other scholars spoke about their experiences as academics and activists on a riveting panel at the recent Oral History Association Annual Meeting. In this podcast, Pickron talks to managing editor Troy Reeves about his introduction to both oral history and activism, and the risks and rewards of speaking out.
The 2014 Oral History Association Annual Meeting featured an exciting musical plenary session led by Michael Honey and Pat Krueger. They presented the songs and stories of John Handcox, the “poet laureate” of the interracial Southern Tenant Farmers Union, linking generations of struggle in the South through African American song and oral poetry traditions.
Like many this past week, our attention has been fixated on the media coverage of the Ebola outbreak: images of experts showing off the proper way to put on and take off protective gloves to avoid exposure to the virus; political pundits quarrelling over the appropriateness of travel restrictions; reassuring press conferences by the director of the Centers for Disease Control. It is an event that has received immediate and intense attention and generated compelling journalism, for sure, but does it really give us an emotional understanding of the impact of the event?