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Executive Director’s Report

By Louis Kyriakoudes
November 2021

The Executive Office is proud to announce that we have been successful in securing two National Endowment for the Humanities grants for the Oral History Association.

The first is from the NEH’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organizations Support to Maintain Threatened Staff Positions and Publish Oral History Content to the Web for $50,000 (ZED-284173-22). The funds helped support this year’s conference as well as the curation of various panels from the conference for the general public. The grant mimics the project funded by the NEH last year when the organization was awarded $43,000. Co-Executive Director Kris McCusker serves as the principal investigator on the grant.

The second grant, also from the NEH’s American Rescue Plan Program, is titled Diversifying Oral History Practice: A Fellowship Program for Under/Unemployed Oral Historians (ZIN-283314-21). The $825,000 grant creates a fellowship program for under/unemployed oral historians, with a focus on oral historians from communities that have historically been marginalized in the field. The funds will provide substantial support for underemployed or unemployed oral historians. Co-Executive Director Louis Kyriakoudes and OHA President Amy Starecheski will serve as co-PIs for this grant.

Amy speaks more about the importance of this grant in her column, particularly in establishing a more diversified future for oral history. We, as co-executive directors, are very proud to have secured these important funds to advance the work of the organization.

Program Associate Faith Bagley will serve as grant administrator for both grants. She has been essential in assembling and creating the entire application platform and framework that allows the Oral History Fellowship Program to move forward. The grants have provided funding to facilitate a more equitable employment situation for her.

Together, these two projects are transformational for our field, and we are excited beyond measure for the good work that will emerge from this funding.

President’s Letter

By Amy Starecheski
November 2021

After the annual meeting the tireless team that leads the Oral History Association is often, well…tired. This year, after our first planned online conference, was no different, although at least we didn’t have to recover from travel fatigue as well as the full inboxes that come alongside full post-conference minds. We took a little break and got back to work, though, because OHA has a lot going on this year!

One major task on which I imagine many members are eager for an update: opening the application portal for our NEH-funded Fellowship Program for Under/Unemployed Oral Historians: Diversifying Oral History Practice. We welcome our selection committee, chaired by OHA First VP Kelly Navies: Paul Ortiz, Daisy Herrera, Dao Tran, Robert Luckett, Marie Cochran, Brian Greenwald and Sara Sinclair. Applications are open now, with a deadline of Jan. 15, 2022.

Most of the rest of our work has been focused on supporting the structures through which members engage in the work of the OHA. Our standing committees met in the weeks after the conference and began their work for the year with new charges and new members. Members passed the necessary bylaw changes at the business meeting to make our new Advocacy, Public Programming, and Development committees official. As they begin their work, stay tuned for new OHA swag, year-round programming for members and resources for oral historians whose work puts them at risk.

We also now officially have a caucus structure, and all we need are members to start making them! Here is the key text from those new bylaws:

            The OHA is defined by its mission and governance documents, but also by the interests, concerns, and needs of its membership. One of the ways these shape the Association is through our caucuses. A caucus is a formally-recognized group within the membership, one defined by a shared identity, interest, or other criteria. The goal of a caucus is to foster community and inclusivity while creating mutually-beneficial relationships within the Association.

            Caucuses are created by members according to their own initiative and interest. Council formally recognizes a Caucus upon their request and in accordance with the goals of the Association. In general, a request for recognition should be made by at least ten (10) members in good standing and include a succinct description of the defining composition of the caucus. Once recognized, caucuses will be advertised within the Association and its membership. They will also be given meeting time within the program of the annual meeting.

            Caucuses have no formal responsibilities to the Association but, as recognized and valued segments of our community, the OHA welcomes their voice, advocacy, and contributions toward strengthening the work of the Association.

            At the annual meeting we saw several OHA task force projects make their public debuts, each of which represents years’ worth of work, and which distill decades of experience.

The Independent Practitioners’ Task Force, co-chaired by Sarah Dziedzic and Jess Lamar Reece Holler, launched two documents. The first is OHA’s Statement on Freelance, Independent, and Contract Oral History Labor, which we can all use to advocate for fair pay and ethical hiring for oral history work. We welcome oral history centers, projects and institutes to sign on to this document. The second is the Independent Practitioners’ Toolkit for Oral Historians, a 55-page comprehensive guide to practicing as an independent oral historian, from managing intellectual property to crafting a budget. One conference attendee shared in a post-conference survey that the session based on these documents included “the best job advice I’ve ever received in my life.” So check them out! And tell us how you’re using them.

The Social Justice Task force also shared a near-final draft of its suite of documents, which co-chair Nishani Frazier highlighted at the opening plenary for the conference. In the coming months we will share final documents for approval by members. At the end of November, Nishani and her co-chair, Cliff Mayotte, will be teaching a free public online workshop, geared to potential applicants to the NEH fellowships, based on these tools and ideas. Registration for the workshop will open alongside the NEH application portal.

Both of these are major contributions to OHA’s ongoing work to advocate for oral historians and for ethical oral history best practices. In the coming year, Council and the new Advocacy Committee will be working to amplify, act on and disseminate the critical insights of these projects.

Some happy news for OHA volunteers: Council voted this month to formalize our recent policy of offering free registration to the annual meeting for active committee and task force members. This is part of a larger conversation: One of the major questions we are wrestling with this year is what it means to have inclusive paths to leadership in OHA.

As outgoing President Dan Kerr noted in his final president’s report, OHA will always be a membership organization that relies heavily on volunteer labor. Some of these volunteer positions require a few hours here and there. Others are very demanding.

How can we make sure that all of this labor is recognized and valued? How can we make sure that those without full-time jobs that support professional service are welcomed into OHA service and leadership? Over the course of this year I will be convening spaces for oral history practitioners–both OHA members and non-members–to discuss these questions. If you would like to help shape these conversations, please reach out.

I have been an OHA member for more than 20 twenty years, have chaired committees, served on Council, organized conferences. But it’s only in this past month, my first as president, that I have truly understood the energy and care that fuels our work.

OHA’s Fellowship and Mini Grant Application Period is Now Open!

In September, 2021 the Oral History Association was awarded $825,000 from the NEH American Rescue Plan to create a fellowship program for under/unemployed oral historians, with a focus on oral historians from communities that have historically been marginalized in the field. 

Our Selection Committee is in place, and applications for year-long fellowships and mini-grants open November 15, 2021 and the application deadline is January 15, 2021 (11:59PM CT). Full program timeline here.

We are offering two free pre-application workshops (registration required) to support applicants as they develop their proposals: a Social Justice Oral History Training Workshop Nov 30 and an Information Session and Q&A December 8

There are two different funding opportunities as part of this grant: 

Year-Long Fellowships (apply here): These fellowships provide support for individuals to take on a year-long, full-time oral history project. The $60,000 fellowships are intended as salary support for a single individual, and support for some additional project expenses is available. Note: We are not looking for fellows who will produce the most in the shortest period of time, but for those who propose projects that will proceed at a pace and scale that allows for the collaborations and relationships that undergird any impactful oral history work. Work may be done in partnership with existing projects or institutions.

Research Mini-Grants (apply here): The aim of these grants is to support research that can lead to greater equity and inclusion in the field of oral history. For example, we encourage proposals for research into 

  • The history of oral history, both as a professional field and as a part of understanding the world
  • The historical and current structure of employment for and career trajectories of oral historians, barriers to access to oral history work, demographic of paid oral historians
  • Projects and groups that have worked to challenge oppression in the field (for example reparative work, work to decolonize and indigenize the field)

Teams may apply for these grants of $5000–$15,000. Work need not be full time or continuous.

You can see the selection criteria here and preview the applications for each of these opportunities here

The Oral History Association is honored to be a conduit for this funding, and grateful for the support of the NEH.

Find the complete announcement and description here. Please share this announcement widely.

Thank you to our 2021 Annual Meeting Sponsors and Exhibitors!

Exhibitors:

Oxford University Press
Palgrave McMillen
Routledge, Taylor & Francis
Randforce Associates/Talking Pictures LLC
Audio Transcription Center
Landmark Associates, Inc.
Their Story
University of Minnesota Press

Sponsors:

Southwest Oral History Association
Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts Program and Center for Oral History Research
Middle TN State University Albert Gore Research Center and Graduate Program in Public History
Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, Oklahoma State University Libraries
Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History
Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center
UNT Oral History Program
Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History, California State University Fullerton
Southern Oral History Program
Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University
UW-Madison Oral History Program
UC-Berkeley, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library
Three First Names
T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University

Upcoming Webinar, November 16, 1pm ET: Sharing Authority: The Oral History Review Special Issue on Ethics

When: Tuesday, November 16, 1pm ET
Cost: Free to OHA members, Free to OAH Members, $75 for all others

Register Here! (Registration closes Nov. 15)

In partnership with the Organization of American Historians, the OHA is offering a series of webinar.

During this first webinar, the Oral History Review editorial team will join authors of articles in its recent Special Issue on ethics to discuss sensitive issues involved in interviewing living, named subjects. Drawn from their own experiences working with oral history, the authors and editors will engage in a roundtable conversation about navigating the relationships forged with their narrators, funders, archives, and publishers.

OHR Editorial Team:

Abigail Perkiss, co-editor of Oral History Review, is Associate Professor of History at Kean University, specializing in oral history, immersive pedagogy, and the recent past. Her upcoming book, Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey’s Forgotten Shore (Cornell University Press, 2022), was born out of a classroom-based oral history project documenting the relief and recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

Janneken Smucker, co-editor of Oral History Review, is Professor of History at West Chester University, specializing in digital and public history and material culture. In the classroom, she integrates technology and the humanities, working with students to create digital projects. Janneken also consults on digital projects for non-profits and museums and leads workshops on digital tools and strategies. Author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (Johns Hopkins, 2013), Janneken lectures and writes about quilts for popular and academic audiences.

David J. Caruso is co-editor of the Oral History Review and the Director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute. His current research projects focus on the relationship between science and (dis)ability, on the role that presidential science advisers play in science and technology policy in the United States, on the ways in which LGBTQ scientists and engineers navigate professional structures, and immigrants in science and engineering. David also conducts the Center’s biannual Oral History Training Institute, a week-long workshop designed to introduce historians to the oral history methodology. He received his doctoral degree in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University, where he worked on the history of American military medicine before, during, and after World War I and on the creation, dissemination, and use of automated external defibrillators in the mid- to late 20th century. He received his undergraduate degree in history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University.