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President’s Column

By Natalie Fousekis

            I hope this message finds everyone enjoying the slightly slower pace of summer and with that time to engage in oral history work, attend one of the many workshops offered across the country, or turn your interviews into an exhibition, a monograph, a podcast, digital project, article, performance or one of the other creative ways our members use oral history in their work.

            Since my May newsletter report, I traveled to the Whiting Foundation’s convening held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where oral and public historians from the academy – incoming fellows and outgoing fellows – met to share their work.  It was a mini-OHA reunion as Troy Reeves and I both served as oral history experts commenting on and providing feedback to fellows. OHA member Christian Lopez also attended and discussed the Whiting-funded African American community oral history project he’s launching in Athens, Georgia.    Among the 20 projects or so featured at the convening, close to half incorporated oral history work. We learned about a walking tour of the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago that will tell the stories of its murals and incorporate interviews with the muralists; a traveling exhibition of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee’s Snowbird Day School developed with images, documents and oral histories; the Gay Rodeo Oral History Project and its curated digital exhibit, The Voices of Gay Rodeo; a crowd-sourced digital project on the Baltimore Uprising that includes oral testimony; an oral and public history project on race in Tacoma, Washington; and a Wisconsin traveling exhibition on land, farming and food that emerged from oral history work (you can ask Troy more about this one).

            Most of those engaged in oral history work at the Whiting Foundation convening had never attended an Oral History Association conference nor were they members of the organization. Thankfully, with Troy, Christian and myself serving as unofficial OHA ambassadors, we invited them to attend our upcoming conferences in Salt Lake or Baltimore and share their work, suggested they explore our website, and encouraged them think about preservation as they carried out and wrapped up their projects. It reminded me that we still have work to do to expand our membership and draw in emerging practitioners and scholars. We would all benefit from exposure to this innovative work, and they would be introduced to this supportive, creative and engaged group of oral historians. 

            The OHA strategic plan remains our top priority this summer.  We have entered the information gathering stage.  Council members are completing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and are working with our strategic planning consultant to develop a member survey, which should go live in the next week or so.  We hope many of you will take time to respond to the survey. The more members who respond, the better data we’ll have to guide us as we brainstorm, meet with our consultant in October and begin to develop a framework for the strategic plan. We value and depend on your feedback as we undergo this critical process.

            Finally, I again want to thank members who have stepped up to assist the organization with our work, most recently, those who said yes to my requests to serve on awards committees and accepted nomination to an elected office. 

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Co-Executive Directors’ Report

By Kristine McCusker

 

The OHA Executive Office is working on various projects right now that will benefit you, our members.

The website is updated to meet the new security measures required by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

You’ve already seen an announcement about the trip to Cuba. We hope many of you will go because Charles Bittner, our guide, has been to Cuba more than 30 times and promises to be a first-rate tour leader. See the details below. If you can’t go this time, the OHA likely will sponsor another trip, perhaps in two years.

We’re also working on producing a webinar featuring Molly Graham, who will discuss oral history and podcasting. The webinar is tentatively set for June, with more details to come. Some of you may remember that Molly ran a sold-out workshop last year at the Montreal annual conference on a similar subject. If you miss the webinar, Faith Bagley, our intrepid program associate, has set up our very own YouTube channel where you can view the webinar. We hope to keep adding new material.

Kris McCusker went to Philadelphia for the Organization of American Historians conference and made some nice connections with other professional societies while also seeing plenty of OHA folks there. Finally, Kris, Faith and Louis Kyriakoudes helped judge the Tennessee State History Day competition and have been working on (and awarding!) an OHA award for the best use of oral history.

Finally, we say goodbye to our wonderful master’s student, Keneisha Mosely, who has done a tremendous job this past year, working on projects such as organizing registrations for us for the Montreal meeting. Keneisha has an internship this summer at the Rutherford County Archives (in Murfreesboro, Tennessee) and will probably be teaching this fall.

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President’s Column

By Natalie Fousekis

 

Happy Spring!

It’s hard to believe it has been six months since we all gathered in Montreal for our annual meeting and I began my presidency of this dynamic, diverse organization of oral history practitioners.  Since then I have been struck by the generosity of our members and their willingness to volunteer to serve on standing committees, ad-hoc committees, award committees and task forces.  I admire the dedication so many of you have to this organization and appreciate all your hard work on our behalf.

I am delighted to report that Council has had a very active 2019 thus far.  In February we all gathered in Salt Lake City at the site of our 2019 conference for two days of work and conversation about the priorities of the organization.  We were all taken with the beauty of the city with the Wasatch Range rising behind the downtown skyline. I can’t wait to return in October when the mountains won’t be covered with snow, as they were in February, but with their brilliant fall colors.

It was our first mid-winter meeting with our four new council members: Sarah Milligan, Gwen Etter-Lewis, Alexander Freund and our First-VP Dan Kerr.  I have appreciated their thoughtful questions, contributions and insight since they joined council in October.  The organization will benefit from their energy, diverse perspectives and talents for the next few years.

At our mid-winter meeting we continued to work on developing OHA’s sexual harassment policy.  We reviewed a draft policy developed by Executive Director Louis Kyriakoudes based on conversations with an attorney and a survey of policies established by organizations similar to OHA.  We discussed the policy, made suggestions for revision and focused in on the process for handling a sexual harassment claim once it has been made.  We will have a well-developed policy to share with the membership when we all meet in Salt Lake City.

I am also excited to announce we have begun the process of developing a new strategic plan. Our last strategic plan (2014-2017) proved extremely helpful in setting the priorities of the organization for the past five years. At the mid-winter meeting, council selected and approved the hiring of a strategic planning consultant. We held our kick-off conference call with her in late April.  She was pleased to see that we had recently conducted a membership survey, which will assist us as we move forward with this process.

We will spend the next few months as a council doing a SWOT analysis to identify the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  We will reach out to the membership for additional input during this process.  Council will arrive in Salt Lake City early this October to dedicate an entire day to develop the priorities for our new strategic plan.  I look forward to updating all of you at the conference on where we are in the process.

Thank you to those who have already responded to my request to serve on OHA award committees! We still have a few committees that need volunteers.  Should you be interested in serving on an award committee or have any other questions/concerns about OHA, please reach out to me directly – nfousekis@fullerton.edu

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Co-Executive Directors Report

By Kristine McCusker and Louis Kyriakoudes

It has been a year since the Executive Office moved from Georgia State University, and we are thankful that we are not nearly as busy this January and February as we were this time last year. This has given us time to attend to some bigger projects.

For example, Faith Bagley, our intrepid program associate, has been moving our website from a server at Michigan State University to Go Daddy. It has been a relatively glitch-free process, thanks to Faith’s hard work, but we’re still making the changes and figuring out where the transition did not go smoothly. Thanks for your patience while we finish this process.

Among the new projects we’re pursuing is the first ever OHA-sponsored trip to Cuba, guided by Charles Bittner, who will be leading our group on a tour in December. We’ll be releasing details soon. We’re also working on our first webinar, most likely one on oral history podcasting, that will come out in June.

At the same time, we’re busily planning the next OHA conference, which will be in Salt Lake City. Thanks to the Program Committee, Allison Tracy-Taylor, Adrienne Cain and Carlos Lopez for their hard work in putting together the call for papers. It promises to be a terrific conference in a beautiful area. We hope you’ll join us.

Finally, our doctoral student, Jordan Alexander, has left us to complete his required third year internship. We are grateful for his hard work and wish him the best. Jennifer Ruch, also a doctoral student, has replaced him and has taken over the social media for the organization. Welcome, Jenn!

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Co-Executive Director’s Report

By Kristine McCusker and Louis Kyriakoudes

This will be a different conference!

Conference planning is in full swing, with program associate Faith Bagley, doctoral student Jordan Alexander and both co-directors working hard to make sure #OHA2018 in Montreal is the best conference yet. Steven High, the folks at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) and Concordia University have worked hard to make this a truly wonderful conference with exhibits, performances and local tours that highlight oral history.

This will be a different conference, however, so expect some changes for this year only. Instead of a conference hotel, we will be using two buildings at Concordia University–the Library and the John Molson Building (“MB” in local parlance). You can walk outside to get to each place OR you can use a connecting tunnel that also will take you to the Metro (Montreal’s subway). Confused? Steven High and his local arrangements committee will have about 50 volunteers, all wearing shirts identifying them as volunteers, to help you find your way.

Some highlights of the program will include some live streaming of sessions. Other sessions–completely in French–will be simultaneously translated for English speakers, so be sure to attend.

The Library Atrium will have exhibits, and there will be performances on Wednesday and Friday nights. The exhibitors will be housed on the bottom floor of the MB building, so visit them, too.

Finally, our new tradition of having the International Oral History Association Reception continues this year at McKibbin’s Pub (1426 Bishop Street) on Saturday night from 5-7.

The local arrangements committee has reserved hotel rooms around Concordia, most within walking distance. Be aware that some of the hotels, especially Le Nouvel, have sold out of their room blocks. In Le Nouvel’s case, the hotel has set aside some other rooms but at a higher cost. Some hotel blocks will have expired by the time you receive this newsletter; others will expire in early September. All room blocks will expire by Sept. 11. Certainly Montreal has plenty of other hotel rooms to reserve, but they won’t come with an OHA discount.

In the meantime, we’re finalizing arrangements, the program, the exhibitors and sponsors. We look forward to seeing you Oct. 10-14 in Montreal!

View All August 2018 Newsletter Articles.

President’s Column

By Todd Moye

 

Promoting ethical principles and best practices for oral history is the most important public service the OHA performs. If anything, it’s more important now than it has ever been, with the federal government having recently redefined “generalizable knowledge” in a way that exempts oral history from Institutional Review Board review. Many campus IRBs have been slow to recognize these changes, but someday soon no oral historian will have to jump through the hoops that were created to monitor human subject research.

The OHA has long encouraged people to practice oral history according to the highest possible ethical standards—longer than IRBs have been around, in fact—but when the last campus IRBs free academic oral historians to record without their restrictions it will only increase our need to promote and disseminate standards that lead to ethical interviewing practice.

To that end, Sarah Milligan and Troy Reeves have led a task force of roughly a dozen OHA members to revise our Statement of Principles and Best Practices. Last updated in 2009, the document was in need of a refresh.

The task force has restated the eternal verities that the document has preached since its first incarnation in 1968, and it has added practical guidance for issues that previous versions did not foresee, including concerns surrounding digital access to interviews and best use of new recording technologies, among others. It will also direct readers to even more detailed online how-to guides, discipline-specific guidelines, and technology-related recommendations.

I’m so grateful to Sarah, Troy and the members of the task force who have devoted incalculable hours of time and effort to this production over the past several months. Their work has been worth it: in my opinion, they have found the balance that will make the document most useful for a wide range of interviewers and other professionals at various points in their oral history careers.

It provides enough prescriptive (and in a few cases proscriptive) advice to help budding oral historians, archivists and others get started and educates oral history interviewees about what to expect from the process, but it is flexible enough to allow for a wide range of creative practice.

That’s not to say that there is no room for improvement. We invite your comments on the beta version of the document, which will be uploaded to the OHA website by the end of August. We will solicit feedback throughout September and will schedule at least one webcast, Skype call or Google hangout to allow interested members to share their thoughts and suggest improvements.

We’re sure that this will only strengthen the document, so please look for further details on how to find it and participate in a feedback session in an upcoming email blast from OHA HQ.

Our hope is that OHA Council will find the resulting document acceptable and that we’ll be able to present it to membership at the business meeting in Montreal and to the world shortly thereafter. At that point we’ll ask for your help again—because we all have a part to play in sharing our best practices and promoting oral history.

View All August 2018 Newsletter Articles.

President’s Column

By Todd Moye

 

The OHA has a lean paid staff. They earn their paychecks many times over, but it’s also true that volunteers do the bulk of the OHA’s work, from planning our annual conference to setting its policies and long-term priorities. I’d like to highlight the work that one of our committees and one of our task forces are engaged in this year, and I invite you to put your own shoulder behind the wheel of the group that best fits your talents and interests.

The OHA’s Statement of Principles and Best Practices is our most important public-facing document. I have used it as the cornerstone of every oral history training I have ever led, as I know many of you have. I also know how often experienced oral historians have directed would-be oral historians to the document as a starting point. I couldn’t possibly calculate how many oral historians the document has educated, or how much better the practice of oral history in the U.S. is today as a result.

It’s important that the document reflect current best practices, which evolve more rapidly than ever in the digital age. To that end, Sarah Milligan and Troy Reeves have led a small team over the past several months to revise the document for the first time in nearly a decade. I have been impressed by the time and thought that the members of the task force have put into this, and I’m excited that they will be able to share the results of their work with you in Montreal.

I’m encouraging Council to think of ways to make the statement more of a living document, which would require the task force to convene more regularly. Stay tuned for developments on that front.

As the OHA grows, it’s up to all of us to ensure that it is a welcoming place for oral historians from all walks of life, and we all bear responsibility for making more opportunities available for oral historians from underrepresented groups. This is the explicit charge of the Diversity Committee, which for the past few years has been working with Council and the executive office to create an OHA-sponsored diversity fellowship.

When the fellowship is in place, it will employ a budding oral historian from an underrepresented community in an oral history program or archive for one year, thereby carving a path toward a career in oral history. In the future we want to scale this up to offer multiple fellowships each year. We’re nearly to the finish line with the first iteration of the fellowship, but we could use your help to get across.

Later this summer you will receive a call for volunteers on OHA committees and task forces. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the committee descriptions and respond to the survey. It would be wonderful if your passions and skill set align with the work of the Diversity Committee, but if not, I’m confident that you will find another spot where your work would be valued.

View All June 2018 Newsletter Articles.

Executive Co-Directors Report

By Kris McCusker and Louis Kyriakoudes

 

The executive office’s transition from Georgia State University to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), in practical terms, is almost complete. We’ve finished the transfer of monies, changed the addresses of the various accounts, have purchased much-needed insurance and have even found the coffee pot.

But the transition in terms of understanding how the executive office works throughout the year will continue as we learn how to handle our new responsibilities. Thanks to all for your patience with us as we do so.

Some highlights from the past two months include the Mid-Winter Council meeting held at MTSU. We spent March 1-3 meeting and planning in the Albert Gore Research Center with the Executive Council. We also did a “progressive dinner” around campus so the council could meet our partners, including the Center for Popular Music, the Center for Historic Preservation and the Department of History and Public History.

The meetings ended with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame to see Michael Gray, former journalist and currently CMHoF curator, conduct an oral interview with singer/songwriter Lori McKenna, best known for her song “Humble and Kind,” a hit for country musician Tim McGraw.

The entire executive office, including Faith Bagley, program associate, Jordan Alexander, our doctoral student and Bethany Bork, our undergraduate intern, also judged the Tennessee State History Day competition in early April. We had a terrific, albeit very cold, day judging at the State Capital some of the fine work by budding historians. We will continue to judge History Day every year, both regionally and statewide and hope to develop some oral history awards for budding scholars nationally.

The office is busy once again, making sure the various scholarships are sent to the appropriate committee, that the award committees receive their charges and that the emerging crises grants committee can do its job. We’re also working on getting election materials together and hope to have that complete by early summer.

In the meantime, send us your news, your job postings and more importantly, PHOTOS! As we create new OHA marketing materials, we want to use our members’ own work (rightfully acknowledged, of course) in this promotional material.

As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to us at oha@oralhistory.org. We really like hearing from you.

View All April/May 2018 Newsletter Articles.

President’s Letter

#MeToo and the OHA
By Todd Moye

OHA Council has been busy over the past few months addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the organization. I wish I could report that we began these discussions proactively, but in reality we were forced into this conversation.

In January a new member alleged that another OHA member whom she had specifically sought out as a mentor sexually harassed her at our annual meeting in Minneapolis by making repeated and unwanted sexual advances and followed this up with unwanted email contact. At that time, the OHA did not have sufficient policies and procedures in place that would have provided guidance for Council or the executive office in dealing with such allegations.

As a result of multiple conversations among the members of Council and the executive directors, we have now put in place policies and procedures to make it less likely that this kind of behavior occurs at our annual meetings in the future. The policies and procedures are grounded in the OHA’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusivity (http://www.oralhistory.org/about/oha-statement-on-diversity-and-inclusivity/). They are fair to all parties involved, they express our core values, and they will enforce what I’m sure is our membership’s shared zero tolerance for sexual harassment and other forms of disrespectful behavior.

When you register for the 2018 annual meeting and subsequent ones you will have to affirm that you support the statement and that you agree to a basic code of conduct. Moving forward, all representatives of the organization—officers, executive directors and staff, committee members, OHR editorial board members, etc.—will have to affirm the same.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the allegation that precipitated these discussions while we are still working to resolve it, so I will not, but I do want to make a few general points:

Members of the OHA, of all people, should be well aware of power imbalances, how those imbalances manifest themselves in human relationships and how power can be misused. They should behave accordingly, and for the overwhelming part, they have. But if you have any kind of power in the organization, whether through seniority, a place on a committee, a distinguished publication record or anything else, you have a responsibility to use that power in constructive ways. You have an added duty to the organization to treat those who are younger than you, who have less experience in the OHA, with respect and as much grace as you can muster.

If you think the code of behavior I’ve outlined above seems unreasonable or unattainable, we will be happy to refund your membership fee.

I am exceedingly grateful to the graduate student who reported her mistreatment. She showed great courage in doing so, and I hope the actions Council is taking are worthy of her bravery.

I also hope that if we have not completely eliminated the possibility of these kinds of mistreatment occurring again in the future, we have at least made it much easier for those who do experience or witness harassment or other forms of disrespectful behavior to report it to OHA and for OHA to deal with it decisively.

I also want members to know that if they have experienced similar instances of misbehavior at annual meetings or in other OHA-sanctioned settings in the past, we want to know about them so that we can address them head-on. We’re listening.

We who serve on OHA Council, the Program Committee and the executive office want to provide a conference atmosphere that’s intellectually stimulating and fun, but on a much more basic level, one in which every attendee feels safe and feels valued. That’s exactly what we will do for our Montreal conference and beyond, and we will be stronger as an organization for having begun these discussions.

View All April/May 2018 Newsletter Articles.

We need your help to review books for the Oral History Review

By Nancy MacKay, Book Review Editor

 

Did you know that the Oral History Review, the journal of the Oral History Association, publishes 30-40 book reviews in every issue?

And that each book reviewed first must be identified as relevant to oral history; then read, analyzed and written about by volunteer scholars in the OHA community?

And that once the review is submitted to the journal, it undergoes a rigorous review and editing process before emerging in print in the form you see when you sit down with your copy of Oral History Review?

I did not know the extent or the scholarly rigor of this process until I assumed the role as book review editor in January.  As a reviewer I had taken all these steps for granted. Now I understand the effort that goes into scanning new publications for potential review books and matching a book to a volunteer reviewer. And each of those reviewers does serious work in reading and analyzing each book for fellow OHA members.

I now know that the quality of the book review section is maintained through wide community participation. I’m calling out to potential reviewers, seasoned reviewers and authors to get involved by suggesting book titles for review and participating as a reviewer. Reviewers can select books of interest to review and their desired level of activity through a form. Anyone can recommend a title for review. To get started, please contact me at ohrbookreviews@gmail.com.

View All Spring 2018 Newsletter Articles.