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Accompanying Staughton and Alice Lynd through Fifty Years of Oral History Practice

From Alice Lynd’s work We Won’t Go (1968), to their most recent co-authored book Moral Injury and Nonviolent Resistance (2017), the Lynds have revolutionized the field of oral history and have done so while keeping their commitment to social justice at the center of their work.  In the Saturday plenary at the 2017 annual meeting, the Lynds will reflect on the sources of inspiration that gave rise to their interest in oral history and address the evolution of their oral history practice over the past fifty years.  They have used oral history as a tool in their social justice work with draft resisters, steelworkers in Gary, Indiana and Youngstown, Ohio, Palestinians in the West Bank, and, as lawyers, corresponded with and interviewed inmates on death row and in super maximum security prisons.

Alice and Staughton Lynd’s groundbreaking work Rank and File, published in 1973, inspired oral historians to turn towards documenting the lives of everyday people. Jesse Lemish coined the term “history from the bottom up,” and Staughton Lynd led workshops using oral history as a central tool in what he called “guerilla history.”

While the Lynds have been acknowledged for their work in moving the field towards interviewing everyday people, their theoretical contributions have largely gone unrecognized.   In their early oral history work, the Lynds became conscious that interviewer and interviewee are “two experts” who bring different kinds of expert knowledge to the project of telling what happened and what it means.  Their conceptualization of “accompaniment” predated Michael Frisch’s work on “shared authority” and Alessandro Portelli’s work on “research as an experiment in equality.”

This plenary acknowledges the lifework of the Lynds and their pivotal contributions to the field of oral history.

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Preliminary program available for OHA 2017 annual meeting

The preliminary program for the 2017 annual meeting is now available online at OHA 2017. Click “View the Online Program” on the left side of the screen to reach the program menu. You may search the program by participant name, day, or time. Click on the session title and you can read the abstract or paper titles.

We will continue to add receptions, meetings, and tours to the program, but we hope the preliminary program will help those who want to make travel plans on the session schedule.

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Minneapolis-St. Paul activities link theme with historic places

Plan to pack your walking shoes because the local arrangements committee has lined up an array of Minneapolis-St. Paul activities that will link the conference theme with notable historic places in this vibrant urban community. 

Immigrant Stories: A walking tour of Eat Street

In 1997, a one-mile stretch Nicollet Avenue south of downtown Minneapolis became known as “Eat Street” in recognition of its diverse ethnic restaurants and markets. These immigrant-owned businesses served as engines of revitalization in an area of the city that had been plagued by problems stemming from the closing of Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street, declining property values and street crime.

On this walking tour, you will learn about the history of Eat Street through the stories of immigrant business owners who have participated in the Eat Street Oral History Project. Tour stops include a Mexican bakery, a Vietnamese market, the site of a former Middle Eastern café, and German, Greek, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants.


Historic St. Paul pub crawl

Seek out new go-to brews and learn about St. Paul’s hoppy past on this three-hour tour with samples, conversations and hidden gems along the way. The tour includes a behind-the-scenes look at the Schmidt Brewery Complex, now Schmidt Artist Lofts, with one of Schmidt’s last brewmasters, Phil Gagne, as well as tours and tastings at Flat Earth Brewing and Summit Brewing.


On the Ave

Explore Franklin Avenue, backbone of Minneapolis’ Native American Cultural Corridor, with several local Natives who will share history, culture and personal narratives on this two-hour amble of “The Ave.” Stops include Powwow Grounds coffee shop, All My Relations art gallery, the Minneapolis American Indian Center, the Franklin Library with its mural “Red Lake” by Robert Desjarlait, Northland Visions gift shop, and the AIM Interpretive Center.

The tour will be led by Colleen Casey and Thomas LaBlanc. Casey (Mdewakanton Dakota descent) will share an overview of the neighborhood and LaBlanc (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota elder) will chronicle some of the neighborhood’s seamier “unholy” aspects. LaBlanc will also describe the birth and growth of the American Indian Movement as it relates to the history of the neighborhood and his own story.


And if you’re a Prince fan…

When you arrive at the conference, look for information in your packets about sites related to the life and work of Prince, the wildly popular musician who died April 21, 2016, of an accidental opioid overdose. He was 57.

You’ll find names of some of Prince’s favorite area performing venues along with websites to guide your visits to the sites. We’ve also included information about Paisley Park, located about 20 miles from downtown Minneapolis in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

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Task force examines OHA committee structure

By Allison Tracy, OHA Council

It you’ve ever sat in on an Oral History Association Council meeting, you’ll know we do a lot of talking. For a group of folks who have centered their work on listening to others, which we also do at meetings, of course, it can feel unnatural to talk so much, but we do get a lot of it in.

In recent months, conversations returned again and again to committees. The work of committees is essential to the OHA. Committees are places where focused, patient attention can be brought to problems, initiatives and tasks that require ongoing efforts. But as we kept circling back to committees, we realized we could be doing better. Council can interface better with committees, and how the committees function can be improved to make the work more satisfying for members and more impactful for the association.

Before Council’s mid-winter meetings in Phoenix this year, Kristine Navarro-McElhaney, our interim executive director, asked me to work on some of these issues we kept returning to. I realized quickly I would need some help and was exceedingly lucky to recruit Mary Larson, Stephen Sloan and Annie Valk to join me on the newly formed Committee Task Force.

Over the winter, President Doug Boyd sent questions to our current committee chairs and members, asking for feedback. Questions included: “How can we as an organization better utilize our committees?” “How can we better recruit for membership?” and “What can we do to better empower and motivate committees?” At the mid-winter meetings, Council reviewed the very helpful feedback we received, and this spring the task force began its work.

The feedback highlighted four areas in need of improvement: How we recruit members to committees, how we develop committee charges, the communications between committees and the broader association, and promotion of the committees and their work. The task force is  thinking about these areas and what changes can be made. We hope to have some changes and improvements implemented as soon as the annual meeting.

Part of the task force’s work is to consider the current language of our bylaws and constitution as it pertains to committees. If we think any revisions are needed to the language of either document, we certainly will give the membership proper notice and follow all of our relevant procedures.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for the Committee Task Force, we’d love to hear them! Please email me at moc.l1632501265iamg@1632501265nerak1632501265nosil1632501265la1632501265.

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Task force prepares membership survey

By Troy Reeves, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This March in Phoenix at the OHA mid-winter meeting, I volunteered to lead a year-long working group we called the Membership Task Force. While I did this certainly to get a chance to be in Phoenix (instead of Madison) for a couple of days in early March, I primarily offered my help for two reasons.

First, I wanted to help the organization collect data that will assist and inform its new executive director and host institution, to be named later this year.

Second, in my many hallway conversations at recent OHA annual meetings, attendees have furnished their opinions about what could make our organization better, so I felt I held enough anecdotal information that a task force’s work would bear fruit. (Why me? I don’t know. Friendly face? Seem to be in the hallway more than I should?)

I also knew I could make time for this effort, because I would not do it alone. I asked several colleagues to join me in this effort: Carlos Lopez, Christian Lopez, Sarah Milligan, Sarah-Jane Poindexter, Stephen Sloan and Janneken Smucker. Graciously, they all agreed, because they, too, feel strongly about OHA and its future. And Allison Tracy has joined us as Council liaison.

Our primary charge and the bulk of our early work has revolved around creating a survey to send to members and former members. We have used Google’s Hangout feature to meet virtually once a month since March, crafting by early June a list of draft questions. We will work more this summer to refine the survey, in hopes of having a draft ready before the annual meeting. Those who come to Minneapolis in October should expect to be asked by me or one or my task force colleagues, “Have you filled out the survey yet?”

Eventually – preferably before the end of the year – we will submit the survey results and our thoughts about them to Council. Also, as a secondary part of our charge, we will communicate with Council our thoughts about how best a membership group – whether it be called a committee or task force or something else – should liaise with OHA’s leadership in the future.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Please email me at ude.c1632501265siw@s1632501265eveer1632501265.yort1632501265.

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OHA Spotlight: Heather Welch and the OHA Instagram

It’s time for another OHA Spotlight!

Our blogger this month is Heather Welch, a PhD student at Georgia State University and a research assistant for the Oral History Association since 2015. This month marks the one year anniversary of the OHA Instagram, which Heather created and currently maintains. In this blog she discusses its conception.

Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, social media (a nebulous phrase meaning the carefully curated representation of ourselves on the internet) is part of our daily lives. It’s also a great platform for any organization to engage with its members, to put forth its objectives, and to be visible and present on the internet. The OHA had its own website, Twitter, and Facebook, leaving Instagram as an uncharted piece of the web for us. It seemed straightforward enough: create an account, post photos of something related to the OHA, engage with members, follow other institutions or organizations, and use the app as yet another means of disseminating information. The reality, however, was a little different.

The idea for the Oral History Association Instagram originated in May 2016, on a sidewalk in Atlanta. As a research assistant for the OHA, I was interested in learning the mechanics of running an academic non-profit, and that included controlling various social media platforms. So I volunteered to start and run an Instagram. The first and most obvious step: finding a username. The first and most obvious username: oha. It, and many iterations of it, were unfortunately taken. I began searching different combinations, making a short list of what I considered the best, and a small group of us voted. ~ohassociation on Instagram was created, and our first photo was posted on June 15, 2016.

But then we needed more content, more followers. The build up to the 50th annual meeting coupled with my access to the archives kept the Instagram going, but it wasn’t until the meeting in October 2016 that I felt like the OHA Instagram took off. While working the front desk and checking people in for the meeting, I was using Instagram to publicize various parts of the meeting: that the front desk was the information hub, we had t-shirts for sale, free buttons, a sign-up for Saturday’s Dine Around, snapping a photo of our first member to buy one of the shirts, paper surveys in the Exhibit hall, a gorgeous view of dinner at the aquarium, on and on. And, best of all, one of my fellow RAs brilliantly created a few printouts to place around the area with all of the OHA’s social media handles and asking people to use #OHA2016. Suddenly our Instagram wasn’t just me posting photos from the archives. Members tagged us in photos and the annual meeting hashtag gained more and more uses. Instagram was really and truly fulfilling its purposes for the organization: engaging its members, presenting information as needed, and carving out another online space for OHA to have a visible presence.

June 15th marks the one year anniversary of the OHA Instagram’s creation, roughly eight months since the highs of the annual meeting, and it has grown beyond my expectations. Other organizations tag us in their photos. People still using the tote bags well after the meeting snapped photos of it. The OHA Spotlight Blogs, another project I currently head, formed another great way to showcase our members through our social media. Even better, there is still room to grow and improve, to engage more and in new ways. Thank you to everyone who follows us, likes our posts, regrams our posts, comments, or tags us in photos. And if you aren’t on Instagram yet, why not?!

You can reach Heather at ude.u1632501265sg.tn1632501265eduts1632501265@5hcl1632501265ewh1632501265 or on Instagram at hwelch86.


If you are interested in writing a blog for the OHA, please email ude.u1632501265sg@ah1632501265o1632501265 for more details.

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Legislative alert regarding funding for NEH, IMLS, and NHPRC


Legislative Alert —FY18 Budget for NEH, IMLS, NHPRC and Title VI-Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs (June 13, 2017)

On May 23, President Trump sent his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request to Congress.  As expected, it included devastating cuts to federal history and humanities funding including elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Title VI/Fulbright-Hays international education programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

House Appropriations Committee subcommittees will be drafting their spending bills between now and the end of June. So it is critical for you to contact your Members of Congress today in support of these federal programs that are vital to our community!

This year we are urging you to send your messages to Congress via email. The volume of calls congressional offices have received has grown exponentially since January and often the voice mail of staffers are full, making it difficult to leave messages.

Our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance have created a legislative action center that allows you to send multiple emails to Congress on NEH, NHRPC, IMLS and education funding from a single website. Each alert includes a pre-written letter that you can personalize or send as is. The system uses your zip code to identify your House member and Senators automatically. Here is the link:

If you prefer to make a phone call, Members of Congress can be reached through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202)224-3121. We suggest you use the letters found at the NHA’s action center as talking points. You can find your representative by going to the House website at The system allows you to search for them using your zip code. To find your Senators go to

No matter which means of communication you choose, please personalize your message as to your background or interest in history. If you are employed in the field, mention the institution where you work in your state and congressional district.

Never before have federal history and archival programs been under attack to this extent. Members of Congress are under tremendous pressure to hold the line on spending, so you must make your voices heard today!

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Engaging workshops and tours scheduled for OHA 2017

OHA members have planned a terrific line up of workshops and tours for the Minneapolis conference. Head to Minneapolis a day early and take advantage of a compelling slate of Wednesday workshops prior to the annual meeting organized by workshop coordinator Christian Lopez. Wednesday workshops are $40 for OHA members and $50 for non-members. Read more workshop content at 2017 Workshops.

In Creating Digital Exhibits Using Oral History, led by Janneken Smucker, participants will develop skills to integrate oral histories into online exhibits by embedding audio clips and OHMS indexes into open source platforms including WordPress and Omeka. Using additional freely available online tools, participants will learn ways to contextualize audio excerpts with images, maps, and other resources. We encourage participants to bring a laptop computer to test out these simple, concrete ways to bring oral histories to life in online environments.

Podcasting is the perfect way to use the stories you’ve gathered to tell larger stories across time and context – Susan Davis will show you how. In Podcasting I, participant will learn the building blocks of the form: True Listening, The Art of Hosting, Perfecting a Sound, and Achieving a Tone. You bring the content and Susan will show you how to shape it into a deeply listenable, educational, entertaining radio show (on demand.) In Podcasting II, attendees will learn how to design and execute an efficient and sustainable production design and schedule, as well as how to promote and distribute your podcast.

Sarah K. Loose will lead Oral History for Social Change. Oral history has long been acknowledged for its critical role in documenting and preserving the history of social movements and marginalized communities.  More recently, oral history has also been recognized as a methodology to actively support and advance contemporary social justice organizing efforts. This workshop will explore how the process and products of oral history can be engaged to further social change.

Two free teacher workshops offered on Saturday will be open to the local community and introduce teachers to oral history and how it can enhance the classroom. Workshop attendees will receive Minnesota CEU credits. Contact OHA at ude.u1632501265sg@ah1632501265o1632501265 to sign up for a teacher workshop. On Sunday morning, OHA is offering a professional development opportunity that will be free and open to all conference registrants in the form of an OHMS workshop. OHMS, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, is an open-source, web-based application designed to enhance user access to oral histories online created by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

The 2017 Local Arrangements Committee, led by Ryan Barland of the Minnesota Historical Society and Andrea Jenkins of the University of Minnesota, has developed three tours to introduce meeting attendees to the Twin Cities. Learn details of each tour at 2017 Tours.

The Friday evening tour is Immigrant Stories: A Walking Tour of Eat Street.  On this walking tour, you will learn about the history of Eat Street through the stories of immigrant business owners who have participated in the Eat Street Oral History Project. Tour stops include a Mexican bakery, a Vietnamese market, the site of a former Middle Eastern café, and German, Greek, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants, and you can stay and eat dinner on Eat Street after the tour!

On Saturday afternoon, explore “On the Avenue:” Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis’ American Indian Cultural Corridor. Simply called “the Avenue” by Twin Cities Native Americans, Franklin Avenue is considered the heart of the vibrant neighborhood also known as Minneapolis’ American Indian Cultural Corridor. A short distance south of downtown Minneapolis, the Franklin Avenue neighborhood became home to large numbers of Native Americans displaced during the federal relocation programs of the 1950s and 60s and has since remained an important neighborhood and gathering space for Native people. On this tour, you will learn about the history of this neighborhood and experience its richness.

If you want to explore St. Paul, how about an afternoon pub crawl? Seek out new go-to brews and learn about St. Paul’s hoppy past on the Historic St. Paul Pub Crawl with samples, conversations and hidden gems along the way. The tour includes a behind-the-scenes look at the Schmidt Brewery Complex, now Schmidt Artist Lofts, with one of Schmidt’s last brewmasters, Phil Gagne, as well as tours and tastings at Flat Earth Brewing and Summit Brewing.

Meeting attendees will be able to sign up for workshops and tours during conference registration at OHA 2017.

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Oral History Society accepting proposals for 2018 conference in Belfast

Oral History Society – 2018 Annual Conference
28 & 29 June, 2018
Queen’s University, Belfast
Theme:  Dangerous Oral Histories:  Risks, Responsibilities and Rewards



This joint conference of the Oral History Society and the Oral History Network of Ireland addresses the ethical and legal implications of oral history research. It presents a timely opportunity to explore the many issues raised by challenging projects, such as:

  • What is an acceptable level of risk for interviewees/interviewers in the oral history process?
  • What are the new responsibilities of the oral historian in a digital age?
  • What are the rewards for initiating ‘dangerous’ oral history projects on ‘difficult’ topics, and when do the risks outweigh them?

From this starting point, the conference organisers wish to solicit papers on all aspects of risk, responsibilities and rewards – and offer the following suggestions, whilst also welcoming other imaginative proposals addressing our theme of dangerous oral histories.

 Conference sub-themes include:

  • Methodology: personal safety, dangerous practices, the ethics of interviewing
  • Risks and challenges for researchers: copyright, ownership and consent
  • Interviewing on the edge: criminals, illegals, war survivors
  • Working with victims: adapting process, practice and outputs
  • Oral histories of conflict and struggle: community activists, security personnel, ex-combatants
  • Oral history in totalitarian and post-totalitarian societies
  • Oral histories of disasters and catastrophes
  • Oral history’s relationship with official secrecy and security
  • Interviewee risk in sharing/telling stories: re-traumatisation, ruptures within families/workplaces/communities
  • Justice contexts: prison-based oral history
  • Oral history, trauma and abuse: the unspoken
  • Illness, death and end-of-life narratives
  • Environmental risk and danger: disasters
  • Work-based hazards and accidents
  • Discord and danger in community history
  • Sexuality narratives: discrimination, illness, illegality
  • Reuse of archived oral histories on challenging and controversial topics
  • Practical strategies for interviewers working in dangerous areas
  • Ways of mitigating risk: risk assessment, training, the role of ethics committees
  • Responsible collection and archiving practices: including the implications of the Boston College Project
  • Teaching dangerous oral histories
  • Museums as ‘safe’ spaces for dangerous and challenging oral histories


The deadline for submission of proposal is 22 December, 2017. Each proposal should include:  a title, an abstract of between 250-300 words, your name (and the names of any co-presenters, panelists, etc.), your institution or organization, your email address, and a note of any particular requirements. Most importantly your abstract should demonstrate the use of oral history or personal testimony and be directly related to the conference theme. Proposals that include audio playback are strongly encourage.

Proposals should be emailed to the Dangerous Oral Histories Conference Administrator, Polly Owen, at ku.gr1632501265o.sho1632501265@newo1632501265.yllo1632501265p1632501265. Presenters will be contacted in January/February 2018.

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