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Saying goodbye to a great listener: a tribute to Cliff Kuhn, OHA Executive Director

Last month, the oral history world suffered a major loss with the passing of Oral History Association Executive Director Cliff Kuhn. His work touched all of us, and many people have written far more eloquently about his life and his passion than we ever could. Below we have gathered a few of these memorials, as a sort of meta-tribute to a great man, a great leader, and a great listener. To see and share more memories of Cliff, please visit the memorial page set up by the OHA. A memorial service will be held at Georgia State University this Sunday, 13 December.

“Cliff brought high energy, unfailing good humor and generosity, and a larger-than-life personality to everything he did, whether it was welcoming new oral historians to our organization, coaching his sons’ soccer teams, advocating for oral history in front of academic organizations and funding agencies, or making all of the communities he belonged to more democratic, egalitarian, and just. For all of these reasons we grieve with Cliff’s wife and family.”

StaffOral History Association

“Cliff epitomized the ideal of the public historian. He valued shared inquiry for the purpose of deepening our collective understanding of the past. For Cliff, a multivocal, multivalent approach to historical understanding was not just one way to approach historical research, it was the only appropriate way to consider the past.”

Adina Langer, Curator of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education, Kennesaw State University

“Cliff Kuhn’s many contributions have helped shape oral history work in the modern age. He will be missed, even as his legacy continues to impact the future of the field.”

Jenna Mason, Office Manager, Southern Foodways Alliance

“Rest in power Cliff Kuhn: friend, mentor, oral historian, public historian par excelence.”

Todd Moye, Professor of History, University of North Texas

“Anyone who knew Cliff understood what it was for a human being to be passionate about history. Cliff was no career climber, no indulger of superficial gestures or academic fads. He didn’t care about money or fame; as the great poet and essayist Wendell Berry once put it, there are “boomers” and “stickers” in life—and Cliff was definitely a sticker.”

Alex Sayf Cummings, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University

“Cliff was an irreplaceable advocate for oral history and public history in the classroom, the academy, and the community.”

Rachel Olsen, Administrative Support Associate, Southern Oral History Program

Atlanta’s WABE, where Cliff was a frequent contributor, featured this moving quote in which he explains his motivation for getting into oral history: “I was interested in putting people into the historic record who historically had not been included in, quote, ‘history’” said Kuhn. “I was interested in the democratic nature of oral history.”

Image Credit: “Headphones in Black and White” by Image Catalog. Public Domain via Flickr.

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