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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.

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Pioneering oral historian who documented deaf experiences dies at 79

         

John S. Schuchman, the hearing son of deaf parents who was among the pioneers of oral history interviewing with deaf people, died of cancer Dec. 19, 2017. He was 79.

Schuchman, a longtime member of the Oral History Association and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR), began his academic career as a history professor at Gallaudet University, which was established in Washington, D.C., in 1864 by an act of Congress as a national college for the deaf. He later became a dean, vice president of academic affairs and provost. He retired in 1998 but kept on teaching until 2000.

Shuchman’s first language was American Sign Language, and he used his ability to live in hearing and non-hearing worlds to advocate for an understanding of deaf culture. His historical research included an analysis of the movie industry’s treatment of deaf actors and its traditional use of hearing actors to depict deaf characters.

Schuchman’s research also focused on Nazi persecution of deaf people, among others with disabilities who were victims of the Holocaust. His work included interviews with deaf Hungarian Jews who survived Nazi death camps.

At Gallaudet, Schuchman introduced oral history to his deaf students and perfected the use of split-screen video recordings to capture oral history interviews conducted in sign language. He received OHMAR’s Pogue Award in 1990 for his lifetime contributions to oral history. The award is named for Forrest C. Pogue, who pioneered the use of oral history in World War II combat.

A native of Indianapolis, Schuchman earned degrees in history from Butler University and Indiana University and a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Jane Engleman Schuchman of Ashburn, Virginia.

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Volunteer an hour to help transform understanding of metadata practices for oral history

By Jaycie Vos, OHA Publications Committee and Metadata Task Force

The Oral History Association Metadata Task Force is charged with improving access and discovery for oral history interviews by helping their creators and caretakers improve the capture and preservation of the interviews’ metadata.

The task force saw the need for more structured information to offer a base understanding of metadata: what it is and how people are using it. To this end, in 2016 we surveyed a select group of oral history programs at higher education institutions about practices, successes and pain points related to description.

After reviewing the results, we are launching Phase 2 of the survey, which aims to obtain information and feedback from a broader range of institutions and practitioners at higher education institutions, public libraries, cultural heritage organizations and anywhere oral histories are conducted and collected.

We want to hear from you! You can take the survey here. We anticipate this survey will take 45 – 60 minutes to complete. This survey may be completed by one person representing the practices of the whole; or, it may be used as an exercise among your overall staff or team, which we highly encourage, based on positive feedback received in our initial data-gathering phase.

Your submissions will be reviewed by the task force and will be incorporated into a larger report and menu of best practices, which we will then share with the larger community of oral history practitioners. Phase 2 of this survey will remain open through most of 2018, but we encourage you to complete it at your earliest convenience to enrich and expand the findings the task force can report out in forthcoming publications and presentations.

If you have any questions about the survey or our work in general, please feel free to email us at oha.metadata@gmail.com and we will be happy to communicate with you. Thank you!

 

The OHA Metadata Task Force

Doug Boyd, Lauren Kata, Natalie Milbrodt, Steven Sielaff and Jaycie Vos

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Co-Executive Directors’ Letter

By Louis M. Kyriakoudes and Kristine McCusker

The last few months have seen a whirlwind of activity as we have overseen the move of OHA’s former home at Georgia State University to its new home here at Middle Tennessee State University.

We’ve attended to many details, from setting up the new office here at MTSU’s Peck Hall, to registering the organization as a nonprofit with the state of Tennessee. We’ve learned new software programs to handle membership and the conference program, and we’ve transferred OHA’s operating accounts to a national bank with branches here in Murfreesboro.

We’ve welcomed Faith Bagley, a recent graduate from MTSU’s public history M.A. program, who is the new OHA program associate. We’ve also welcomed our student workers, Jordan Alexander, a student in MTSU’s public history Ph.D. program, who serves as our graduate assistant, and Bethany Bork, our undergraduate intern.

This smooth transition would not have been possible without the generous and cheerful help of OHA’s leadership and staff. First and foremost we want to thank Gayle Sanders Knight, outgoing program assistant, who has helped us at each point in the transition. She has answered our many questions with good cheer. She traveled to Murfreesboro to spend a week with us as we mastered the many ins and outs of OHA procedures.

Gayle’s steady hand at the Georgia State University executive office kept the association on track after Cliff Kuhn’s tragic passing. All who love OHA and the practice of oral history are in debt to her.

We want to thank the outgoing interim executive director, Kristine Navarro-McElhaney. She bequeathed to us all an organization in sound shape, and her training in accountancy has been a great help to us as we’ve established our office. Past president Doug Boyd and current president Todd Moye and the current members of Council have all been essential to this successful transition.

As co-executive directors, we have been struck by the dedication, skill, professionalism and sheer love for the association. We look forward to continuing in that tradition as we serve OHA and you, its members.

OHA social media efforts are in full swing. Please keep us apprised of your work, your projects, career milestones, grants and any other accomplishments and good news you want to share. Please send your announcements to oha@oralhistory.org.

We look forward to seeing you all in Montreal!

 

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President’s Column

By Todd Moye

As you know, OHA is a little over one month into a major transition. Our executive offices have moved across the state line from Georgia State University to Middle Tennessee State University, where Kris McCusker and Louis Kyriakoudes have taken over as co-executive directors and Faith Bagley is our new program associate. Faith will be responsible for our conference logistics, among other things. They bring a unique set of oral history, public history, folklore and administrative skills to these jobs, and we are lucky to have them putting those skills to work for OHA.

I can’t imagine that the transition could have gone any more smoothly than it has so far. As a result, OHA leadership now has a little more breathing space and a little more time to look toward putting the finishing touches on some dishes that have been simmering for a while now. Here I’ll highlight two of them.

Our newest standing committee, Emerging Professionals, grew out of an idea that bubbled up organically from a few members a few years ago. Council liked their idea of a mentorship program that would pair emerging professionals with seasoned veterans at the annual meeting, thought it successful, and created a task force to manage the program.

At our last board meeting Council decided to transform the task force into a standing committee. Emerging Professionals will continue to manage the formal mentorship program along with other informal initiatives and will advise Council on policies and procedures to make membership in the OHA more valuable for oral historians at the beginning of their respective careers. Their work is obviously crucial to the long-term success of our organization.

From my perspective, this is a great example of how our task forces, committees and Council should work together. Members approached Council with a good idea, Council empowered them to put it in place, and when it proved successful Council institutionalized it.

The Diversity Committee is engaged in another major initiative, our Diversity Fellows program—another example of a good idea that percolated up from membership through a committee, rather than from Council down. This one, however, came with a large price tag, and it has been percolating at the idea stage for a while.

In a nutshell, this program will place a member of an underrepresented group who can demonstrate an interest in making a career in oral history in an institutional oral history program or archive for a few months–or perhaps year-long paid internship focused on the fellow’s professional development. OHA and the partner institution would split costs. Our hope is that once a final plan and funds are in place, the committee and Council can move quickly to select the inaugural fellow and partner institution and that we will be able to scale up the number of fellows soon thereafter.

The committee nearly plated the dish last year, but we do have a few more steps to go through before we can serve it. I have tasked the committee this year with identifying potential institutional partners and writing at least a rough draft of a budget and fund-raising plan that Council could begin to implement as early as this year, with a goal of selecting a fellow as early as 2019.

This is a tall order and achieving it will require hours of work from the committee members—and OHA members who aren’t members of the Diversity Committee. We will depend on all of you. If you have good ideas that would help us achieve what Council has long recognized as a goal, please get in touch with committee chair Zaheer Ali. If you have an idea about anything else oral history-related percolating in your own mind, let’s talk.

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