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President’s Letter

By Allison K. Tracy-Taylor

I’m excited to announce a new award structure for the Oral History Association.

Every year the OHA gives a number of awards to recognize outstanding work in various facets of the field. With feedback from members, awardees and award committee members, the Awards Task Force, led by Past President Todd Moye with Christa Whitney and Steve Estes, revised the structure of the Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award and the Oral History in a Nonprint Format Award. The new award is intended to be more flexible and responsive to the different types of projects and products oral history practitioners work on.

With the new Elizabeth B. Mason Multimedia Award, the OHA seeks to recognize outstanding oral history projects, collections, exhibits and multimedia presentations for the public. Up to three awards will be given each year. Qualifying projects may be any of the following:

  • Oral History Project or Collection (physical and/or virtual)
  • Exhibitions (physical and/or virtual)
  • Documentary or Performance (podcasts, films, theatrical productions, mobile applications, etc.)

The OHA welcomes nominations for projects with an institutional affiliation, including those undertaken by libraries, archives, colleges and universities, museum and historical organizations, community-based institutions, and others. And we also welcome nominations for projects undertaken by academic scholars, independent researchers and ad hoc groups. The awards will not be given to an ongoing project or oral history program, although they may be given to a distinct project or interview series within such a program. We encourage nominations from both large and small oral history projects. Entries are welcome from around the world but must be submitted in English.

The following awards will remain as they have before: the Article Award, the Book Award, the Martha Ross Teaching Award (awarded in odd-numbered years), the Post-Secondary Teaching Award (awarded in even-numbered years), and the Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi Award.

The deadline for submissions for these and the Elizabeth B. Mason Multimedia Award is June 1, 2020. Information about the awards and the application process can be found here. This page will be updated with information about the new award structure soon.

I thank those who provided feedback on the OHA’s award structure, particularly those who had recently served on award committees. Their feedback was especially helpful. I also want to thank Todd, Christa and Steve for their good work on the Awards Task Force. I look forward to congratulating the recipient of all our awards in Baltimore.

I’ve also been working to prepare for Council’s midwinter meeting. In addition to monthly conference calls, Council meets in person twice a year: during the OHA’s annual meeting in October and at some point in, well, midwinter.

This year’s meeting was at our conference hotel in Baltimore at the end of February. The meeting agenda included additional work on the OHA’s new strategic plan, as well as updates on the work of the association’s committees and task forces, a review of the association’s standing resolutions and a number of other topics. We also met with members of the 2020 Local Arrangements Committee. I look forward to talking more about the midwinter meeting in my next letter.

 Preparing for midwinter has me thinking about transparency in the OHA. We need to work on this in a number of ways, but one question I’ve heard recently is how do members of the association interface with Council?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer. Not because Council doesn’t want to be available, but because we don’t have set procedures in place. So much of the association’s work is done informally, which can be a benefit in some ways, but it also means when members have a question or feedback for the OHA’s leadership, they often don’t know where to start.

First, you can find contact information for all of the OHA’s leadership here, and you can contact us directly. If you do reach out to one of us, please understand that we do all have day jobs, so we may not be able to follow up immediately, but we will be happy to hear from you.      

Besides reaching out to the leadership, participating in the occasional surveys we put out is always helpful and a good way to provide directed feedback. You can also attend the business meeting at our annual meetings in October. This is a great way to learn more about the association’s current work, but there are also multiple opportunities for attendees to participate in the discussion and even raise new business. If you’re a committee or task force member, the reports submitted to Council twice a year are a great place to include questions for or raise issues with Council.

Finally, you can always reach out to the Executive Office at oha@oralhistory.org. Our Co-Executive Directors Louis Kyriakoudes and Kris McCusker and Program Associate Faith Bagley are knowledgeable and happy to help.

 As my letter might indicate, 2020 has already been a busy year for the OHA, and I’m looking forward to connecting with you all in one way or another in the coming months!

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