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Blog: Harford Voices – A Digital Oral History Exhibit Created by Harford Community College Students

post by James Karmel

Oral history is a great way to learn and teach history. At Harford Community College (Bel Air, Maryland), my history students participated in an exciting project during the Fall 2012 semester in a class about the 1960s. The undergraduate students conducted 17 interviews with narrators from the community, their families and college personnel. They recorded each interview on campus or in the field for the purpose of developing a website that featured significant video clips of the interviews. With student input, I utilized WordPress to develop a website called Harford Voices, located here: After the semester, I developed the website using the interviews and with great help from a web consultant and college staffer. Eventually, we will also post the full interviews in the college’s library archive, accessible online.

The Harford Voices project was an exciting opportunity for students to hear more directly about the 1960s from people who lived through that tumultuous and transformative era in American history. The interviews focused on broad themes that were later defined on the website: civil rights, Vietnam and cultural change. Each student had access to all the interviews through utilization of Vimeo, an online video sharing program. For their projects, each student developed substantial analysis papers in which they reacted and commented on the interview(s) they participated in and others that classmates had conducted. Harford Voices also includes a page entitled “Student Reflections” that includes textual student reactions to the oral history project and three recorded video clips of students discussing the project.

For this oral history educator, the student reflection component of the project was most gratifying. Yes, the students understood that this was a required element of their final projects and that the grades on these projects factored into their grades for the class. Yet, their thoughtful statements illuminated the meaningful learning that they experienced through participation in the project. For example, one student compared classroom instruction to the oral history experience:

It is obvious what is meaningful to the narrator as she discusses the environmental aspects, sexual revolution and hippy lifestyle of the 60’s to a great length. The impact of an oral history project is different in many aspects of traditional classroom learning. In class you learn about the events in history analyze the events. Participating in an oral history project you get the perceptive of the individual person verse society as a whole.

Another student wrote of the power of oral history to inspire:

As a student historian, this has simply re-ignited my passion to want to learn and hear more from people who have lived through various time periods, even in the recent past of about a hundred years. I am more dedicated than ever, I believe, to trying to capture whomever I can, even if it is not video recorded. I also want to record somehow both my own memories and those of my age group and younger. Things that I remember and forget are so historical, such as 9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the cold war, what it was like living under the threat of nuclear war, how people reacted at the prospect of Y2K, etc. Interestingly enough it makes me want to turn into a roving journalist again, asking anyone I come in contact with even the things that they think majorly influenced them or their lives.

Harford Voices is just beginning. We expect it to grow in the future as our students continue to conduct oral history and add their interviews and thoughts to the project. For more information, please visit Harford Voices and/or contact me directly at ude.d1638800923rofra1638800923h@lem1638800923rakj1638800923.

OHA Annual Meeting: Spotlight on Friday Plenary Session

 October 11, 1:15 – 2:45

“Popcorn sacks and elephant tracks: Oklahoma’s rich circus tradition”


This plenary session will recognize and celebrate the circus heritage of a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. Historically referred to as the “Sarasota of the Southwest” and “Circus City USA,” Hugo, Oklahoma, has served as the winter home to approximately seventeen tent shows since the 1940s. Today, only three remain. Like clockwork every November, the town welcomes back the employees and the menagerie and in April, the performers hit the highway for another season on the road. Over the years, a symbiotic relationship has been nurtured where the town’s businesses have supported the circuses and in turn, circus owners and performers have been civic partners contributing to such endeavors as the local hospital and schools. The circus is a big part of Hugo, with reminders throughout the town of its heritage and impact, from murals in the local elementary school to Showmen’s Rest at the Mount Olivet Cemetery, the final resting place for many associated with circuses not only from Hugo, but beyond.

Historically, big tent circuses traveled from small town to small town entertaining young and old alike with aerial and animal acts. Childhood memories of cotton candy and “Step Right Up” can be recalled by many, but there has been little documentation of the culture of these entertainment occupations and their interactions with or impact on the community, especially in Oklahoma.


Drawing upon interviews conducted as part of The “Big Top” Show Goes On: An Oral History of Occupations Inside and Outside the Canvas Circus Tent, funded by a 2011 Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, researchers Tanya Finchum and Juliana Nykolaiszyn will provide a glimpse into the voices, experiences, and history of those involved with the work culture associated with Hugo, Oklahoma’s tent circus tradition through a mix of audio, video, and photographs recorded as part of this project.



Juliana Nykolaiszyn is an assistant professor and oral history librarian with the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University. From interviewing narrators to processing oral history collections, Juliana’s work involves not only the creation but preservation and online access of oral histories. Outside of her efforts with The “Big Top” Show Goes On, she serves as the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame Oral History Project.


Tanya Finchum is a professor and oral history librarian with the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University. In addition to The “Big Top” Show Goes On oral history project Tanya has been leader or co-leader in several other projects such as the Women of the Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahoma Centennial Farm Families, Cooperative Extension Agents, Remembering Henry Bellmon, and the Town of Boley, Oklahoma.


Blog: International Scholarship Award Winners, Part 3

Each year scholarship applications submitted by selected international participants for the upcoming OHA annual meeting are reviewed by the International Committee. This year seven participants were granted scholarships. With only $3,500.00 in total to offer, the decisions on which applications to fund were difficult ones for the committee.

For the past few weeks we have been highlighting the scholarship winners and their conference topics. The final two are below.


Therese Sweeney, Australia
Paper Title: Pioneers of the Fringe South West Sydney 2009-2012: A Case Study by Memory Bank cultural Media Inc.
Abstract: Pioneers of the Fringe, an extensive digital sound and image survey, was initiated in 2009 by Memory Bank in response to radical social, cultural and demographic changes occurring in the traditional market gardening communities on the fringe of Sydney. This semi-rural landscape is in transformation, culminating in a city the size of Canberra, a population increase from 5,000 to 250,000 people in coming years.

This farming community is located in Austral & Leppington (Postcode 2179), housing the highest concentration of ageing migrants residents from South East Europe, in the whole of the New South Wales. These ageing migrants, first and second generation, started market gardening in the early part of the 20th century and grew food for our armed forces during World War II and fed greater Sydney. Farming methods were developed by residents from the old Yugoslavia, who in turn taught the Italian, Maltese migrants and so on. Their extraordinary and enduring contributions remain invisible and virtually unrecognized in our local cultural institutions and our national narrative. They remain out of the consciousness of the wider Sydney population.

The Memory bank initiative aimed to redress this blank in history and acknowledge this group through digital media in oral history and photography. There is no broadband in this region and the group had no understanding of current technology or digital equipment. Themes of migration, women, labor, poverty, farming methods, crops, community and culture were explored. Sites of engagement (as there were only a few in this landscape), included the Bowling Club, the Bocce Club, the Community Service and of course, farms and market gardens.

The digital resource now includes forty migrant pioneering residents personal oral histories (as digital sound recordings), private photograph archives were scanned (digitized), uncovering much photographic history, hundreds of ageing residents participated in contemporary photographic portraiture (in a makeshift studio and in their environment); many hours of observational video footage was also recorded at sites where they gather (digital); either video/films were produced and exhibited as video installations in galleries, museums, libraries, on buildings and online during the project.

The digital material will lay the blueprint for this communities’ future and allow for further research and investigation. Memory Bank projects are to be housed through the University of Technology, Sydney whose library staff are building the technical infrastructure to host this multi-media archive and other future work, that it be open to the public and students as an open learning source. The archive development is underway and will commence during 2013. Many of our other major library institutions have a great analogue backlog to clear and have budget constraints to host this work.

Memory Bank is a not for profit, legal charity and achieved private funding to complete the engagement and collection phase of the Pioneers of the Fringe. No government funding was forthcoming. Memory Bank is in fact pioneering a new way with oral history in this country, Australia. Memory Bank is development a best practice model that establishes and values technically and conceptually well produced sound and image projects, as a way to engage communities and train residents in oral history and considers photography both in still moving image to be a vital part to stimulate more project work, archived and technical production and to attract new audiences and practitioners.
Miroslav Vaněk, Czech Republic
Paper Title: Work as a Value. Of Unemployment and Bananas (1970 – 2012). An Oral History Project
Abstract: This paper will be based on the analysis and interpretation of about 300 interviews with members of different group of Czech society (manual workers, farmers, intellectuals, workers in the service sector, members of the armed forces, members of management, senior marketing personnel etc.) born roughly between the years 1935 and 1955 who were in their active age during the last twenty years of the communist regime and at least during some part of the post-revolutionary transformation. These interviews were carried out as part of the research for the Center for Oral History Institute for Contemporary History between 2006 and 2012.

OHA Annual Meeting: Spotlight on Saturday Awards Dinner and Keynote Speaker

Saturday, October 12th

6:30-9:00 PM

Dovie Thomason, Storyteller, Author, Indigenous Cultural Educator

“Lessons from My Old People”

Over 25 years ago, while at a powwow at Massachusett’s Council Oak, where Massasoit gave orders to feed the first Pilgrims, Dovie Thomason woke just before dawn to a song in an unfamiliar language.  Much was unfamiliar to her then, as the Lakota/Kiowa Apache/Scot had recently moved from the Plains of her heritage to the Northeastern woodlands.

Looking out of her tent, she saw a man in a feather cape, facing the sunrise and singing.  Following his song, she introduced herself to the man called Namo Hatirire, Red Thunder Cloud–herbalist, healer, storyteller, singer, dancer and last speaker of the Catawba language.  That same day, he took her to meet Princess Red Wing, of the Narragansett and Wampanoag nations, as she told stories in the shade of the great tree where her ancestors Massasoit and Metacomet (King Philip) had met with the first English.

This began her tutelage by some of the Old People who taught her of the diversity of the nations grouped by linguists and anthropologists under the generic “Algonquian” label.  From Red Thunder Cloud, she first learned of the Catawba, a Siouan-language-speaking people from the Southeast whose existence has broadened perceptions of how dispersed and travelled Indian people were before contact on this continent.

Coming from the rich oral tradition of her family, nurtured by her Kiowa Apache grandmother, Dovie has had a lifetime of listening and telling the old, traditional stories that are the foundational narrative of tribal values and memory.  When she adds personal stories and untold histories, the result is a contemporary narrative of Indigenous North America told with elegance, wit and passion.

She has been featured at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Barbican Theatre in London, The Smithsonian, The Kennedy Center, The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., international storytelling festivals from Ireland to New Zealand and, as a narrative voice, in documentaries about Native People and storytelling for the BBC, RTE, NPR and PBS.   Her audio-recordings have been honored by multiple awards from the Parents’ Choice Foundation and the American Library Association and she’s been described by the ALA as a “valuable resource for multicultural education.” Thomason has been honored by receiving the National Storytelling Network’s prestigious ORACLE: Circle of Excellence Award and the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers’ Traditional Storyteller Award.  The National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International Foundation, and the Smithsonian Associates support her work as a master traditional cultural artist and scholar. A former Native Studies professor, she presents regularly at universities across the country and has served as a consultant to UCLA Film School on the importance of narrative in modern film, to NASA on indigenous views of science and technology, and presented at a recent TEDx Conference.


Blog: International Scholarship Award Winners, Part 2

Each year scholarship applications submitted by selected international participants for the upcoming OHA annual meeting are reviewed by the International Committee. This year seven participants were granted scholarships. With only $3,500.00 in total to offer, the decisions on which applications to fund were difficult ones for the committee.

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting the scholarship winners and their conference topics.


Yin Peili, China
Paper Title: Review on Mainland China Research of Oral History in Libraries
Abstract: As far as Mainland China is concerned, the research of oral history in libraries is still at its beginning stage. Until now, there still have not been any books published, while the number of published articles is also relatively less, only 41.

In the year 2000, the first article was published in the Library Journal Shanghai Library. Compared to America, it’s more than 30 years later must be noted that a large amount of articles (take the percentage of 43.9%) were written by librarians of Shantou University Library, which is the first library in Mainland China carry out oral history with the support of Li Ka Shing Foundation.

The most important is that the research theme is also very narrow. Almost half of the articles were on the importance and feasibility of oral history in libraries. The oral history management problems especially cataloging, digitizing, laws and ethics were little discussed. Researchers and librarians should pay more and more attention to them.


Marica Sapro Ficovic, Croatia
Paper Title: Oral History Shows Vibrant Life in Libraries Under War Conditions in Croatia 1991-1995
Abstract: I received my Dr. Sc. degree in Spring 2012 from the Postgraduate Study of Information Sciences, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb, Croatia. The dissertation was entitled: “Activities of libraries under siege in war. Case studies: Croatia 1991/1995.” The research includes extensive oral history interviews in ten cities under siege during the Homeland War with the objective to collect and organize recollections and reflections of librarians and from library users about the use of libraries and nature of reading in conditions of war. The oral history collection consists of over 54 hours of interviews; transcripts contain over 450,000 words. The topic of these oral histories is unique; nothing similar is reported anyplace in the world. Methods with extensive examples and quotes from results are presented in the paper submitted the OHA meeting.

In my own country, Croatia, oral history is not widely practiced or even understood as yet. I intend to promote and even teach the use and analysis of oral histories not only among the library community in Croatia, but also involving other fields and general practices.

SAA Live Web Chat: Lessons Learned from Boston College and the Belfast Case

The Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Oral History Section is hosting a live web chat, Lessons Learned from Boston College and the Belfast Case, on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2pm Eastern. It features guest panelists Clifford Kuhn and Elena Danielson. For those who cannot participate live, the web chat will be available on the same page shortly after the live event concludes.

See the SAA page for more information.

OHA Annual Meeting: Spotlight on Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Friday Night: Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Ed Linenthal, one of the leading historians of American historical memory and memorialization, is the featured speaker at our Friday evening special event. The museum and memorial site will remain open after hours so that OHA attendees may tour the site before and after Linenthal’s presentation.


‘The Predicament of Aftermath’: Oklahoma City and 9/11

 Edward T. Linenthal is Professor of History, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, and Editor of the Journal of American History at Indiana University, Bloomington. Previously, he was the Edward M. Penson Professor of Religion and American Culture and Chancellor’s Public Scholar at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and a long-time consultant for the National Park Service.

Linenthal has been a Sloan Research Fellow in the Arms Control and Defense Policy Program at MIT, where he did the research for his first book, Symbolic Defense:  The Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He is also the author of Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields and Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. He has co-edited A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies in the Nuclear Age, with Ira Chernus; American Sacred Space, with David Chidester; and History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, with Tom Engelhardt. Linenthal worked for the National Park Service during the 50th anniversary ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, and delivered the commemorative address at the memorial in 1994. He has appeared on ABC’s “Nightline,” PBS’s “Newshour with Jim Lehrer”, and on CBS and NBC evening news. He served for many years on the Federal Advisory Commission for the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Academic Advisory Committee for the new permanent exhibition at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. He is most recently co-editor of The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer’s Journey.

In his presentation at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Linenthal will draw upon his experience in writing The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory, and his experience as a member of the Flight 93 Memorial Commission to reflect on the parallels and differences between these events. His talk will focus on: various narratives which framed these events in very different ways; the significance of memorial hierarchies; the power of material items often transformed into both sacred relics and commercial commodities; and the processes of formal memorialization.