No, not directly oral history. But an adjunct, something that often accompanies delving into someone's history. Letters, scrapbooks, diaries, mementos, or things. just. saved., that's what's in this category

Kodak: From “Remember The Day In Pictures” to “Remember using a Kodak camera?”

Kodak Ad, Life Magazine, Oct 10, 1949: Keep 'Family History' in snapshots For nearly 125 years Kodak’s reason for existence has been to provide the tools for people to create memories.
“Remember the day in pictures.”
“Keep ‘Family History’ in snapshots.”
“Remember the visit with snapshots.”
“For over 100 years people have trusted their memories to Kodak film.”
Kodak, the company that started in 1880 and popularized the film camera and invented the digital camera, recently announced that they’re no longer going to manufacture digital cameras and photo frames. How does one think of a dying behemoth? And not just any corporate behemoth, but a company that has been integral to capturing and storing our memories? Their 1970s ad said, “We’re America’s storyteller celebrating life with you –picturing the stories of everything you do.” Now Kodak is transforming into a memory.

Kodak ads in Life Magazine during the 1940s and 1950s.

There are three ways to consider this transformation.

The “Wow. Just wow.” factor

Most of the stories I’ve seen fit in this category . Wow. Kodak is no longer making digital cameras. Wow. Kodak is the company that invented the digital camera. The company has been around, like, forever. Look at that. Such a change. Wow. It just takes your breath away.

Let the Children Kodak.  Advertising Ephemera Collection - Database #K0079 Emergence of Advertising On-Line Project John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Over my lifetime, I’ve shot pictures with an Instamatic camera, and a Pocket Instamatic (using Kodak film, of course.) When I got a 35mm Single Lens Reflex, I kept using Kodak film—lots of Kodak film. When I took a photography class, I bought Kodak chemicals and photo paper. I got a Kodak slide carousel projector ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 29, 2012 in • DigitalityInterviewingLongevityMemorabiliaObsolecencePhotographs
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National Jukebox at the Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress from the Making of slideshow The soundtrack of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation is now on the web in a large (and growing) collection called The National Jukebox, located at The first phase of the historic audio recordings range from turn of the 20th century to 1929, and range from music (Jazz, opera, vaudville, ) and spoken word of all kinds.

The collection was digitized from 78 rpm recordings of the Victor label of records. Sony owns the license to the collection, but made an arrangement with the Library of Congress for people to listen to them. (You can hear, you can share, you can make playlists, but you cannot download the music)

It’s the iTunes of Retro Music.

Crossword Puzzle Blues:  Duncan Sisters (1924)
Darn these words that crossword puzzle me
I’ll be basking [?] till they muzzle me
Some demented nut invented
this way to stay discontented.

(The Duncan Sisters also performed Um-um-da-da. Can’t play the embedded song? Permalink on National Jukebox site)


Back in the day between ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 12, 2011 in • AudioCool WebsiteHistoryMemorabiliaRestoration
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The Scrapbook Belonging to Great Aunt Doris

Great Aunt Doris stands atop her beloved horse, Pete. What an album, what a treasure. This is my Great Aunt Doris’ photo album/scrapbook. In honor of the 100th episode of the Carnival of Genealogy, I offer you an album that is nearly 100 years old. Doris attended the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston during the ’teens. There are photos from home in Montana, the Blackfoot Indian tribe, and photos from New York, where she lived with her sister and brother in law (my grandparents).

I pulled out this photo album again recently (it’s the topic of Intervewing with Photo Albums, part 2, and I’m using it to make a little movie for you). I got stalled on some of the movie making because, well, there’s so much interesting stuff in it. So much. It’s huge. I can’t share it all. (I haven’t even scanned the whole thing.) But I can give you a sample.

Doris moved from Billings, Montana, to Boston Massachusetts to attend the Fenway School of Illustration. The early pages of her album show her in school, with her friends from school.

Note: click any image to enlarge.

One of the first pages of Doris Fogler's album. FSI stands for Fenway School of Illustration, located in Boston. This album dates from the teens. 1915?

The FSI medallion in the image above was, I guess, the Fenway School logo. When my mother and I talked over these photos, Mama didn’t know what, exactly F.S.I. stood for. The Fenway School of Art? Something? What’s with the I? Thanks to a recent bout of searching on Google, I learned that Fenway School stands for Fenway School of Illustration.

Here's a spread of the artists and their models. Check out that model top center. That's Doris. In her full riding gear.

According to the Friends of Fenway Studio, the art school met in the Fenway Studio building.

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 01, 2010 in • GenealogyMemorabiliaPersonalPhotographs
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A shoebox of photos

(This is in memory of Steve, and is for Debbi) His sister looked through the shoebox of photos. “Wow! I’ve never seen these before!” Sister and Mom sat in chairs on the grass in the backyard. I sat in one of the group of chairs encircling the metal firepit. Together they paged through snapshots. His Mom held slides up to the afternoon sun.

“Dad’s hobby was photography,” Sister said. “Did you see this one? the one where he’s standing in front of that car? What kind of car is that?”

My boyfriend looks, and after a thoughtful pause, he says, “Cadillac.”

It’s a Cadillac with a long front end, maybe late 30s, early 40s. A car that you’d see at those classic car shows. The kind of car you’d wave to if you saw it barrelling along the freeway. The kind of car that brings a smile to your face in the year 2010.

“He’s always posed in front of cars,” Sister says. She and Mom look at the snapshots of toddlers in a tall tile bath. “Who is that with Steve?”

Mom looks, and says a name.

(Alas, I forgot the name. This is not my ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 03, 2010 in • MemorabiliaPhotographs
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Family heirlooms and their stories

image Here’s my postscript to this brief article: Make records of family heirlooms. In response to a reader question about what kind of info to write down about family heirlooms,’s Sheila Burns says yes, write it down - both the object’s description, and additional details about its use in the family. [via GenWeekly] Don’t just write it, record it! Heirlooms are wonderful story triggers for family interviews. If you’re stuck for a starting place, or a way to get more stories from family members, ask questions about objects and heirlooms.

Each of the questions Burns poses about the object are wonderful triggers for a recorded interview.

Identify, photograph and maintain records of your treasures. Describe the history and condition of each object. Who owned it? Who made, purchased or used the object. Where did the person live? How was the item used? What did the item mean to your family?

Good interviews use lots of open-ended questions, the kind that lead to telling a story, rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” Each of these question starts with those wonderful words that elicit stories—Who? Where? How? What?

I can almost hear the story as it unwinds from one of those questions.

Burns talks about taking the story ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 07, 2010 in • InterviewingMemorabilia
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Not your father’s iPod… well, actually it is (a Walkman)

image For Sony Walkman’s 30th anniversary, 13-year old Scott Campbell tries it for a week. Hilarious for us oldsters to see our old fave equipment through a young-person’s eyes.

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.
He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.

Size? cumbersome. Handy belt-clip, but with that weight? (you hafta read the article to find out its effect for current 13 year olds).

When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.

Though one teacher got nostalgic. Two tantalizing questions:

How long did it take for Campbell to figure out that there was a side B to this tape?

And how did he create his own impromptu “Shuffle” effect?

You hafta read the article to find out the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 29, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitalityLongevityMemorabilia
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News Roundup

Recent news stories that caught my eye from Austin TX, Lewiston NY, San Diego CA, Washington DC. Capturing stories of aging Mexican-Americans, Archival treasure-trove at Odd Fellows lodge, call for Washington DC secretaries, and the dwindling number of holocaust survivors.

Austin, Texas: Austin history project aims to preserve voices of elders.
Mexican American Oral History Project held a workshop this last weekend to train people to conduct interviews. Interviews will be conducted throughout the month of May. The article opens with a nice description of “the problem” that these oral histories seek to solve:

Many of us have parents and family who are entering the twilight of their rich lives. They have stories to tell — tales of bedazzling beauty and joy, of profound loss and heartache, of the mundane moments that fill the in between. They bear witness to history.

Among Mexican Americans, that history usually gets passed along orally, says Gloria ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 20, 2009 in • MemorabiliaOral history in the news
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Restored Reel-to-Reel Tape Decks as Art.

image A Gallery of Custom Tape Decks, wherein Jeff Jacobs restores old audio technology as art, via BoingBoing Gadgets. I love the meta-line here. Jacobs restores tape decks, which I think of as tools for restoring (and digitizing) audio. If tape decks are art, then there’s a ton of art at Richard Hess’s audio tape restoration studio! In decades to come, when those machines grow ever scarcer, the BoingBoing post points to another source to find those long-obsolete tape decks of the world: the personal collections of geeks.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 12, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareLongevityMemorabiliaRestoration
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It’s our past coming back to life

image Wow. 32-page typewritten transcript – from 100 years ago – provides a description of a pictoral history of Sioux nation. The Twin Cites (MN) family finds it in a trunk of Grandma’s old possessions (Great-Grandma typed it up), and gives a copy of it to members of the Lakota tribe.

Libby Holden [pictured with transcript, above] said her grandmother, who inherited the oral history, never spoke about it. It’s possible she never knew she had the document. When she died, her possessions were stored at the family’s printing company.

Last summer, Libby Holden and several other family members began sorting through the items. Holden says one big musty old trunk was especially interesting. [... It] contained the White Horse oral history. She said it’s possible the items were packed away by her great-grandmother and left untouched by her descendants.

Holden’s great grandparents had lots of contacts with Native Americans; their great grandfather was a lawyer ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 03, 2009 in • MemorabiliaOral history in the news
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Jeannette Rankin, first woman congressperson

Transcript of an oral history interview with Rankin. I just read two letters written by my Great Grandma Fannie in 1917 that refer to Jeanette Rankin (she was elected in 1916, began her term in Congress in April, 1917… This was when the state of Montana granted women the right to vote, but before the right to vote was won nationwide.). Rankin wrote my great-grandmother to ask her advice on matters of “Indian Affairs.” Fannie taught school on the Crow reservation.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 23, 2008 in • MemorabiliaOral History ProjectsPersonal History
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Shades of the Departed Guest Blog

Hooray for Footnote Maven, who invited me to guest blog at Shades of the Departed. My post is about interviewing people about photo albums. Why photos rock, and what sorts of practical things you can do during an interview. You may already be a winner! Read the entry to find out why. (I certainly won-in a slightly different way. Thanks to fM for the nudge to write that post. If it weren’t for that deadline, I might’ve waited a little while longer before blogging here again.)

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 20, 2008 in • InterviewingMemorabiliaPersonal HistoryPhotographs
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Creating Memories Using Maps

A blog called Very Spatial links to a number of sources for using maps to create (or preserve) memories. An old post here was one destination, but the others in the post are worth a peek. Did you know the USGS has a Maps and Genealogy page?

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 10, 2008 in • MemorabiliaPersonal History
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Holiday visits: Witness to an Interview

Photo albums are a thing of beauty. I got to witness an oral history interview about a photo album on my Christmas holiday travels. I was the silent third party, operating the equipment, and asking the occasional question to pull out a few more details. Son brings Father a photo album, put together by Son’s Mother. The album was discovered after Mother’s death. It covers the time in Mother’s and Father’s early life together, before the kids were born, and before the Mother and Father’s divorce. Father is the only one alive who can describe what’s going on in the photos. Here are a few observations I made about interviewing with photo albums.

Photos are a fabulous memory trigger. When sparking a conversation about someone’s recollections, how do you get to the well of memories inside a person’s mind? Questions may trigger… they are words to tap that well, but that recollection-well still resides inside the person’s mind. Pictures are external triggers. They bring back the memories for the interviewee. Plus, being external, the interviewer can make his or her own observations about what’s in the picture, and use them to elicit more information. “Tell me about the car” or “Look at the uniform you wore! When did you get that uniform?” or “Whose house is that?”

Interviewing over photo albums For The Record.  It’s wholly ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 02, 2008 in • InterviewingMemorabiliaPhotographs
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Contents of attic seeks family

In New Zealand, discovery of a suitcase full of memorabilia. Family sought– Mr. Gale or Alma Ansin. [via Megan’s Roots World]

The suitcase, filled with family photographs and personal letters, was found last Friday by builders working in the attic of Caleb Fryatt’s Tweed St home.

Mr Fryatt is hoping to find relatives of the person who owned the case and has appealed for them to get in touch.

He first found out about the suitcase on Monday when he received a phone call from Peter Gooding of Renovation Masters.

Mr Fryatt said he was amazed to find what it contained.

“The stuff in there is just incredible. It’s a very interesting find,” he said. “Once you start looking through it, you don’t want to stop. It’s pretty addictive.”

Among the letters and photos are military buttons, death certificates and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 23, 2007 in • Memorabilia
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Historic online eye candy

Grandma’s ‘37 Road Trip. Not digital scrapbooking, but a scrapbook, digitized. [via Making Light Particles] Hmm. I’ve got a scrapbook that includes Grandma climbing Mt. Rainier. Hmmm. scanfest? Oh, that was Sunday.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 27, 2007 in • Memorabilia
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