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Oral History Association Endorses Values of History Relevance Statement

The Oral History Association today joins more than 100 historical organizations around the country to endorse the History Relevance Value Statement and declare the importance of teaching and learning history.

To celebrate, OHA is urging history fans to post a selfie of them enjoying their favorite historical spot, and use the hashtag #HistoryRelevance.

The Value Statement is comprised of seven distinct tenets delineating critical ways the study of history is essential to individuals, communities, and our shared future. The full Value Statement can be found at

Endorsement of the Value Statement sends a positive message to raise the value of history in American society and help history organizations of all kinds to better articulate the value of history with a common language. History studies create a sense of awareness and identity, cultivate critical thinking and analytical skills, and lay the groundwork for empowered communities. They preserve the past and spark inspiration for the future.

History Relevance comprises over 150 like-minded organizations around the world, from the Smithsonian Institution and National Archives to historical societies and archivists; associations and nonprofits; and museums, trusts, estates, and local institutions. The Value Statement is endorsed by organizations that promote and encourage a sense of awareness, identity, and interconnectivity in a multicultural world through history-driven courses of study.

“We are thrilled with the Oral History Association’s endorsement in our Values Statement,” said Tim Grove, History Relevance spokesperson. “History – including knowledge as well as the processes of research and reflection – is critically important to our society, culture, and the individual citizens who live it each and every day.”

For more information about History Relevance, go to History Relevance.

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OHA Spotlight: Jason Higgins and the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project

Welcome back to our blog series!

Our OHA blogger this week is Jason Higgins, who says that he was “drawn to oral history by my appreciation for story-telling and the shared experiences that form what we call the human condition. Oral history speaks to my natural curiosity in the stories and memories of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times.” With a background in both English and History, he states that “oral history allows me to transcend intellectual and disciplinary boundaries. Oral history provides innovative methods to explore the past in search of ways to make meaningful change today.” Jason indeed seeks to make meaningful change through his Incarcerated Veterans History Project, which he is sharing with us today. We encourage you to reach out to Jason via email or any of the social media he has provided.

Jason’s Background: I earned a bachelor’s in English and history from University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2013. Since 2012, I have documented the experiences of over forty veterans of war from WWII to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an intern for the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program in 2014, I interviewed over thirty veterans as part of the Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. I earned a Master of Arts in English from Oklahoma State University and wrote my master’s thesis on Vietnam veteran autobiographies, trauma, and suicide.

Currently, I study history under Christian Appy and work with Samuel Redman in the UMass Oral History Lab. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I focus on the social history of modern war and collective trauma.

Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project

I am launching an Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project, working with the support of the UMass Oral History Lab, Samuel Redman, and Christian Appy. My project seeks to document the experiences of incarcerated veterans from the Vietnam War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have recently begun the process of reaching out to communities to locate and contact combat veterans imprisoned after their service. I hope this blog will help me extend an invitation to veterans who might be willing to share their experiences in the military and the criminal justice system. Please contact me if you have ideas that may help me pursue these goals.

This project investigates the relationship between war-related trauma and the difficulties of post-war readjustment. To connect mass incarceration to the Vietnam War, my research examines the ways in which trauma, disability, institutional racism, and the disparities in the criminal justice system contributed to the imprisonment rates of hundreds of thousands of veterans. Compounded by inaccessibility to disability benefits and resources, counseling, and legal representation, many of the most vulnerable Vietnam veterans experienced a crisis of post-war readjustment in a decade of rising unemployment rates and little opportunity.

Historians have customarily overlooked the post-war lives of veterans, and none have adequately sought to preserve the experiences of imprisoned veterans. The Department of Justice reported 73,000 veterans in prison in 1978, an alarming 23.8% of total prison population. Following the Vietnam War, veterans were more likely to be imprisoned than non-veterans. Many traumatized veterans reintegrated from Vietnam without access to mental health services or community support. The DSM-III officially recognized PTSD in 1980, but it took decades for trauma to be acknowledged in the court system.

Since 1978, the total number of American citizens in prison increased from 300,000 to 1.5 million. Thanks to grassroots organizations and activist veterans, the growth rate of incarcerated veteran populations did not rise as exponentially as the rest of the country, but the total number still doubled.

My oral history project seeks to humanize incarcerated veterans—to bring them out of the shadows of the criminal justice system—and preserve their testimonies for future generations. I plan to archive these oral histories within the W.E.B. DuBois Library and the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, ensuring their experiences are included in the history of the United States.

I am asking for the help of this community of oral historians to share the goals of my project and bring awareness to the systemic crises facing military service men and women.

Please contact me at moc.l1632499444iamg@16324994446102s1632499444niggi1632499444hnosa1632499444j1632499444.

Follow me on Twitter.

Share my Facebook page: Incarcerated Veterans History Project

I follow the Principles and Best Practices of Oral History as established by the Oral History Association.

If you are interested in writing a blog for the OHA, please email ude.u1632499444sg@ah1632499444o1632499444 for more details.



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Oral History in Central Europe: “Nech sa páči.”

by Michael Kilburn, Vice-Chair OHA International Committee

On Feb 15-16, the Czech Oral History Association held its annual conference, this year entitled, “The Many Faces of Oral History: From Theory and Education to Research, Education, and Popularization” at Masaryk University in Brno, Czechia (Czech Republic). There were indeed many faces represented, including a variety of disciplines from History, Sociology, and Economics to Education, Ethnology, and Cultural Studies, and a number of academic and public institutions from across the region. The Oral History program at Charles University and the Oral History Center at Prague’s Institute for Contemporary History were well represented by faculty and students, but others also came from a selection of universities, institutes, and museums from Slovakia to west Bohemia.

This author, invited as one of the plenary speakers, was the only non-Central European and the only one presenting in English (I apologized to my gracious hosts both for my incapacity in Czech and for the neo-colonial impulse of everyone to switch fluidly to English in my presence). Ironically, my presentation, on the Czech Underground rock band, The Plastic People of the Universe, was the most esoteric and specifically local topic, while others addressed a range of topics -methodological, theoretical, and substantive- of much broader relevance. Generally, the level of sophistication, global awareness, and interdisciplinary fluency was inspiring.

Over two full days of multiple sessions, the speakers demonstrated a strong grasp of theory and method and the range of projects represented combined a strong and specific grasp of local geography, culture, and history with a broad awareness of the inductively global relevance of their research. All oral histories -to paraphrase Tip O’Neill- are local, but this regional conference clearly demonstrated that they are all increasingly and self-consciously part of a global movement and conversation. Parallel sessions focused on theory and method, education and popularization, memory, regional research and the role of museums and public institutions. The groundedness of the student participants in OH theory and the specificity of their practice was particularly notable.

The host institution, the faculty of arts at Masaryk University, was gracious and accommodating, with excellent facilities and logistics, the city of Brno was beautiful, and the level of scholarship and engagement by participants was inspiring and energizing. The conference included specific attention to local culture, with an evening of traditional Moravian song and dance at the national museum and a city tour of functionalist architecture, but the overall impression was one of fluency, outreach, and engagement with a global community of scholars. While the Czech Oral History Association was founded only 10 years ago, the breadth, focus, energy, and momentum of its achievements is impressive, consolidating a strong community of scholars and a variety of academic and public institutions in its network. The conscientious and systematic efforts of COHA to develop the capacity and professionalism of oral history practitioners in central Europe is a model of entrepreneurship, professional development, and best practice that bodes well for the future of OH in the region and beyond.

It was an honor to participate in this conference; many thanks and congratulations to the organizers and participants.


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5th Czech Oral History Association conference held in Brno

by COHA President, Pavel Mücke

The 5th Conference of the Czech Oral History Association (COHA), hosted by Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University (under auspice of Dean, prof. Milan Pohl) and the Moravian Museum was held in Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic, between February 15 and 16, 2017. In more than forty papers, presented in three parallel panels, several topics from the fields of contemporary history, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, pedagogic studies and psychology were discussed. This successful event was visited by a record attendance of more than hundred participants (coming from several regions of the Czech Republic, but also from Slovakia and one from Canada/U.S.A.). Among the key note speakers can be mentioned Dr. Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková, dealing with family memory studies, Prof. Michael Kilburn, presenting a paper about the politics of memory of Czech underground and Miroslav Vaněk, past-IOHA president and Honorary Czech Oral History Association President, who was re-thinking in his presentation the actual development of oral history in worldwide context. During the Evening Ceremony, which was held in the baroque palace of the Moravian Museum, in the presence of the General Director of Museum, Dr. Jiří Mitáček,  the collective monograph “On the Border between Past and Present: Contemporary Perspectives of Oral History” was presented for the first time in public. In this new book (co-published by Czech Oral History Association and Ostrava University) are collected the best contributions presented during past COHA conferences and workshops since 2013.

I would like to thank the local organizers (mainly Jiří Zounek and Jana Poláková) for brilliant hosting and also all participants (especially to abroad ones) for a lot of well-prepared presentations and fruitful discussions. The next venue and locality for the 2019 conference is still unknown (it seem to be city of Olomouc, also in Moravia region), however I wish to prospect organizers and participants for such nice conference event like Brno.



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2017 Emerging Crises Oral History Research Fund grant funds available

The Oral History Association announces a grant of up to $4,000 to undertake oral history research in situations of crisis research in the United States and internationally. These funds may be applied to travel, per diem, or transcription costs for research in places and situations in which a longer application time schedule may be problematic. Such crisis situations include but are not limited to wars, natural disasters, political and or economic/ethnic repression, or other currently emerging events of crisis proportions. The deadline for 2017 applications is April 15, 2017. For more information, see Emerging Crises.

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