Speaking of hurricanes…Hurricane Digital Memory Bank

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving the Stories of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Anyone can contribute photos, text, audio, video. It’s not strictly oral history, but can include it. It is a digital repository that anyone can contribute to.

From the about page:

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media and the University of New Orleans, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and other partners, organized this project.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 11, 2006 in • Online Oral History Collections
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Post-disaster interviewing

The Louisiana Folklife Program has a page, In the wake of the hurricanes, devoted to “collecting our stories and preserving our culture.” There are some excellent resources on that page for interviewing Hurricane Katrina survivors and responders. Why might this be of interest to someone who is not from the Gulf area? (I’ve been thinking about interview questions today). Disasters happen. People are affected—both the survivors and those who respond. These are a good starting place to elicit details about a major disaster experience. And there are a huge number of people affected by Katrina and Rita, too. Too– the Gulf diaspora is so widespread that there may be survivors and responders close by.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 10, 2006 in • InterviewingOral History Projects
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The Remembering Site

The Remembering Site —Sharing our collective memories— is a website where you can join, and be presented with a host of questions to answer. It’s like writing a personal memoir, in small stages. The site is primarily devoted to text and writing recollections. But the nonprofit foundation offers audio recording services, too. One co-founder, DG Fulford (together with her brother Bob Greene) wrote a book To Our Chidren’s Children, an excellent book of questions to spark memory and recollection.

You sign up for the site, pay $10, and are guided to answer as many or as few of the myriad questions presented. Here are a few from the page of sample questions (that’s 4 of 32; go the page for all of ‘em). I like them for the way that they pull for specifics and sensory details, but if you’re going to be asking questions in a conversation, I wouldn’t ask multiple-point questions:

Did your grandparents live nearby? How often did you visit their homes? Did the house have a special cooking smell? Onions? Cookies? What did their couch feel like? How big was the kitchen?

Do you remember “getting” a concept in school? Cursive writing, maybe? Do you remember the moment when you first ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 09, 2006 in • InterviewingLinksPersonal History
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From Oral History to Readers’ Theatre

Traverse City, Michigan: The Voices Project presents “What Will Be in the Fields Tomorrow,” a Readers Theatre piece that took shape from oral history interviews for a documentary about small farmers and the challenges they face.

[Cynthia Vagnetti, Agriculatural/Rural Life researcher and Julie Avery, historian] decided that the project had wings beyond the television documentary that Vagnetti original created. They decided to give the piece a “stage presence” in order to let these voices continue their message. What they came up with is a Readers’ Theatre piece that gives a vehicle for the voices of farm women from the mid-west.

“Readers’ Theatre is often used by playwrights to get input into their work before it’s staged,” she said. “But also increasingly Readers’ Theater, as a process, is used a lot with social issues.”

Google search on “What Will Be In The Fields Tomorrow”

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • AfterwardsOral history in the news
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University of Kentucky establishes Oral History Center

The Center is named for Louie B. Nunn, former Kentucky governor; it includes interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other prominent Kentuckians in state and national public life. The center’s website with list of collections.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Online Oral History Collections
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A Story Retold: Australian Aborigines

National Indigenous Times: A documentary film about a 1916 massacre. “The Mowla Bluff Massacre tells of a little known moment in the Kimberley in 1916, but one that was typical of the Australian frontier experience. In the documentary, an Aboriginal community in Australia’s tropical northwest recounts the story of the execution of family members at Mowla Bluff by police and local pastoralists.”

Here’s a fascinating paragraph:

The oral history version of the story still carried by Nyikina, Mangala and Karijarri Elders today is substantially in accordance with the Aboriginal eyewitness statements documented but then dismissed by the police in 1918. This is despite the fact that these statements were buried in the police archives for the next 80 years and unknown to them.

Why fascinating? I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the role of memory, which can be a trickster: Oh, it’s unreliable, you oughtta have documents. Well, here’s the best part of uncovering the past: when the stories told from memory coincide with the documents.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Oral history in the news
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Tape Restoration Notes

Richard Hess has a new blog– Restoration Notes about restoration of tape recordings and digital transfer. He’s one of my heroes when it comes to digital audio. His knowledge about tape and formats is detailed and vast. He’s the go-to guy to pull audio off of tape that may be destroyed or otherwise gone to audio no-man’s-land.

I met Richard when he taught an audio restoration workshop at Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Public and Oral History. Back when he lived 2 cities over (that’s “nearby” in Southern California-speak… he since moved to Ontario, Canada), I visited his audio restoration home office and we whiled away a happy afternoon as audio geeks talking shop. Well, okay, he was mostly talking, and I was young Grasshopper, taking it all in. I’ve blogged about him before. 

I hope to have an interview with Richard on this site, too.

[disclosure: I gave Richard some advice on the software he used for his blog while he was setting up his site.]

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 08, 2006 in • Do it: Hiring HelpLinks
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Vermont Folk Life Center’s Field Research Guides

Field Research, as in field recording, as in portable audio recording equipment. As in information about solid state field recorders, and digitizing and editing recorded audio. Very good information from the Vermont Folk Life Center.

I learned about the Vermont Folk Life Center from reading the Oral History mailing list. Andy Kovalos always has a good word on the ins and outs of digital tools. He recently wrote to the list and said that they’d re-vamped their field recording guides. These pages are definitely worth a read.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 04, 2006 in • AudioAudio: HardwareAudio: SoftwareDo it: YourselfLinks
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An interview with David Isay, founder of StoryCorps

At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews David Isay, founder of the StoryCorps project. It turns out that Amy Goodman is the one who gave David Isay his start. One radio documentary in particular showed Isay how significant asking questions on tape was in the lives of everyday people (quote follows after the jump). Isay also talks about Danny Perasa and Annie Perasa, who’ve become a kind of figurehead for the StoryCorps project. Danny came down with a fatal illness. NPR aired one last StoryCorps-style interview last Friday on Morning Edition. Later that day, Danny died.

I did a documentary about 13, 14 years ago with two kids growing up in a housing project in Chicago called the Ida B. Wells Projects where I gave them tape recorders and had them do a diary of their lives. I saw that when these kids took these tape recorders and interviewed say, their grand parents, that having a microphone and laying in bed with their grandmother and asking her these questions, allowed these kids to ask questions they wouldn’t normally get to ask. And created bonds that existed long after the tape recorder got turned off. And then when these relatives passed away, these tapes became enormously important to these young men. So that was really the beginning of Story ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 02, 2006 in • Oral history in the news
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