Oral History Conference Swag

Swag: Freebies. Giveaways. Schtuff. What kind of swag do you get at an oral history conference? Last weekend’s SOHA conference was the first oral history conference I’ve attended.

Now, I’ve gone to trade shows, I’ve gone to tech conferences. Heck, I even put ON a conference once. And when I worked for a software company, I remember the mad rush to create swaggy handouts for a trade show. What kind of goodies have I brought home with me? I’ve gotten pens and pencils flashlights, and carry bags and keychains, and sweatshirts and tee shirts and baby bibs and a condom (true!) and small flash memory drives. (See Flickr photos of Swag and Schwag)

The swag freebie available at the reception a week ago was a little different. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

There it was, a stack of boxes. “Free. Help yourself.” the sign said. An empty flat box.

tape box

Now mind you, this was a reception in a meeting room on the third floor of the library of Cal State Fullerton. Go through the door on the left, and you’re in the office of the Center for Public and Oral History. Weave your way this way and that and you’re in the stacks amid reel-to-reel magnetic tape, and (possibly) cassette tape and other audio media. And typed transcripts and other boxes. (off topic, but worthy of note, is the CSUF “house wine” they served at the reception. The merlot was good. Very nicely balanced. Fruit forward. But I digress.)

Now most swag is designed for promotion “put your name out there!” and to make some kind of memorable impression on attendees. But this was a plain khaki-tan box. Open it up, and see an insert with a plastic bump to securely hold the center spool of a tape reel.

The box wasn’t shouting “Me Me Me!” No, if anything, it was declaring “You You You!” Your stories, your interviews, the empty box whispered to me. And unlike swag, which is used for a bit and then tossed, this swag brings the comfort of longevity and stability: When I turned the box over to look at it, I saw an embossed that told me what’s really valuable about this swag: It’s archival. Acid and lignin free.

acid and lignin free


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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 27, 2007 in • Longevity
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