Medium 9781538106228

Collections Vol 13 N2

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This issue of the journal is themed with a focus on Storytelling: Oral Histories, Archives, and Museums. Articles address methods, case studies, and theoretical approaches taken by museum and archives professionals including librarians, archivists, curators, technologists, researchers, scholars, and students. Authors include: Colleen Bradley-Sanders; Ren Harman, Tarryn Abrahams, Andrew Kulak, David Cline, Adrienne Serra, Ellen Boggs, Shannon Larkin, Jessie Rogers, Ashley Stant, Quinn Warnick, and Katrina Powell; Keith Huxen; David Kunian; Uta Larkey; Janet Butler Munch; Benjamin Ridgeway and Olivia Guntarik; Marco Robinson, Farrah Gafford Cambrice, and Phyllis Earles; Natalie Underberg-Goode; and Ruth Wainman.

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9 Articles

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Introduction from the Guest Editors

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Introduction from the Guest Editors

Greg Lambousy and Mark Cave

The role of oral history in the work of archives and museums has assumed new dimensions in recent years. Technology has enabled creative methods of gathering and sharing personal narratives. Such technology has driven efforts to digitize analog recordings long forgotten in the vaults of local archives and opened them up to a global audience through online presentation. Access should certainly be viewed as a positive, but it has raised important concerns regarding donor agreements and the expectations of interviewees. With online presentation—often the perceived end product of new oral history projects conceived by archives and museums—new concerns arise regarding the impact that this expected dissemination may have on what the interviewee chooses to share during the interview. In addition, proper contextualization of the interview is necessary when the content is cut into smaller segments in the form of interview clips provided online.

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Using Oral Histories at the National WWII Museum

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Using Oral Histories at the National WWII Museum

Keith Huxen

Ph.D., Senior Director of Research and History, National WWII Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana, Keith.Huxen@nationalww2museum.org

Abstract This article examines the development of the oral history collection at the National WWII Museum and how that collection is used in the permanent exhibits and other programming to support the museum’s mission to tell the American story of why the war was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. It details the collection’s beginnings under the late Dr. Stephen Ambrose, challenges in the collecting process, and policies and processes that the Research Department of the museum uses today to expand the collection (now holding more than 9,000 personal accounts). The article also discusses use of these oral histories as the museum seeks to add value to its oral history collection through online publishing, inclusion in permanent exhibits, and their use as support in future initiatives and other programming.

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Digital Storytelling for Heritage across Media

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Digital Storytelling for Heritage across Media

Natalie Underberg-Goode

Associate Professor of Digital Media and Folklore, School of Visual Arts and Design, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, Natalie.Underberg-Goode@ucf.edu

Abstract This article presents insights from digital heritage and digital storytelling scholarship and practice to address the question, “How can heritage materials be presented online or through other digital formats in a useful and engaging way?” Specifically, the article focuses on opening up a dialogue between archivists/museum curators, heritage professionals and scholars, and digital media specialists in the following key areas: the affordances and constraints in developing digital storytelling projects within and across platforms, digital storytelling tips for heritage experts, knowledge of the digital media production process as an aid in the development of digital storytelling projects for archives/museums, and digital storytelling practices, tools, and tips in the areas of digital video, Internet-based storytelling, and mobile augmented-reality storytelling. The article provides examples from the author’s own work and teaching along with examples of other projects—both those directed by the author and those developed by others—that illustrate these ideas at work.

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The Louisiana State Museum Music Collection Oral Histories

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The Louisiana State Museum Music Collection Oral Histories

Digitization, Preservation, and Use

David Kunian

Music Curator, Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana, dkunian@crt.la.gov

Abstract The Louisiana State Museum, a statewide network of National Historic Landmarks, architecturally significant structures, and half a million artifacts, has a robust collection of oral histories with New Orleans jazz originators, revival figures, and other New Orleans and Louisiana musicians. This collection of oral histories consists of more than 300 interviews in the following formats: reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, digital audiotape, videotape, CD and DVD, and assorted digital file formats, such as WAV, MP3, and MP4. This article examines the range of the Music Collection, explains its value, and makes the case for digitization and preservation. Finally, the article provides examples of use in on-site exhibitions as well as online dissemination through the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

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(Co)Constructing Public Memories

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(Co)Constructing Public Memories

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Creating Born-Digital Oral History Archives

Ren Harman, Tarryn Abrahams, Andrew Kulak, David Cline, Adrienne Serra, Ellen Boggs, Shannon Larkin, Jessie Rogers, Ashley Stant, Quinn Warnick, Katrina Powell

Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia

Abstract VT Stories, an oral history research project with an interactive, Web-based delivery platform, was designed from initial concept through development to serve multiple purposes and to provide various audiences with a high level of digital engagement. Comprised of a collaborative group of Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students from multiple disciplines, the VT Stories team collects, analyzes, and shares oral history interviews for several purposes. This article details how these oral histories are fashioned for digital and social media use, incorporated into the university library’s Special Collections, and made available for multiple research purposes. The standalone website, linked to the university library’s Special Collections Online, is a unique archive that both contributes to the public face of the institution’s history and at the same time functions as a repository for exploring multiple avenues of research. The article highlights how an oral history project differs when explicitly designed with such digital end use in mind. We also discuss the hands-on experiences of students as they take related classes, work as website developers, interview as oral historians, and manage the project from story concept to published Web content.

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Past Forward

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Past Forward

Oral History Interviews with Holocaust Survivors and Storytelling

Uta Larkey

Associate Professor of German, Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland, ularkey@goucher.edu

Abstract This article highlights new research opportunities on oral history interviews and storytelling. From 2003 to 2013, Goucher College students interviewed Holocaust survivors in Baltimore, Maryland, and publicly retold their stories on campuses, in schools, and in synagogues. These oral history interviews and storytelling presentations are stored in digital form in the Special Collections at the Goucher Library and are currently in the process of being made available online. The students used their chronologically structured interviews to develop their own narration of the survivors’ accounts. The interviews and presentations include a wide variety of survival experiences all over war-torn Europe as well as the survivors’ recollections of their arrival in the United States. The Goucher Testimony Collection adds another aspect to existing archived oral history interviews: the survivors entrust their stories to interviewers the ages of their own grandchildren. The interviews as well as the digitized storytelling presentations are a rich source for comparative analyses with interviews from other collections and/or other forms of testimonies. The techniques and approaches are also applicable to other oral history/storytelling projects, such as with war veterans or immigrants.

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Listening to Scientists’ Stories

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Listening to Scientists’ Stories

Using the British Library’s “An Oral History of British Science” Archive

Ruth Wainman

School of History, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom, prw21@kent.ac.uk

Abstract The British Library’s “An Oral History of British Science” (OHBS) was created in 2009 to address the dearth of oral history archives in the United Kingdom dedicated to capturing the personal experiences of British scientists. This article examines the implications of using an oral history archive from the perspective of a historian of science to write about scientists’ identities during their doctoral research. The advantages of using life history interviews to explore scientists’ stories are situated within the longer historiographical trajectories of oral history and the history of science. In addition, this article reflects on the process of using a recent oral history archive that has not only allowed for an almost unprecedented access into the personal and working lives of recent scientists but also afforded a greater insight into the creation and aims of the OHBS itself.

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Telling the Stories of Forgotten Communities

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Telling the Stories of Forgotten Communities

Oral History, Public Memory, and Black Communities in the American South

Marco Robinson

Assistant Professor of History, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas, mtrobinson@pvamu.edu

Farrah Gafford Cambrice

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas, fgcambrice@pvamu.edu

Phyllis Earles

University Archivist, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas, plearles@pvamu.edu

Abstract Oral histories and ethnographic interviews allow researchers to unearth and recover remarkable stories from our past. Paula Hamilton and Linda Shopes assert, “Oral history is at heart a deeply social practice connecting past and present and, at times, connecting narrative to action.” Likewise, the “authentic” voice of communities and individuals is best accessed through these methods. This article explores oral histories and ethnographic interviews conducted in the “forgotten” Jago community (located in northwestern Mississippi) and the Pontchartrain Park community (located in New Orleans, Louisiana). The analysis of the all-black Jago community, founded during Reconstruction and absorbed by a majority white municipality during the mid-1900s, brings light to historical recovery through utilizing oral history. Additionally, the connections between oral history and public history are explored through examining the local campaign led by historians and community groups to place historical markers in the original section of the Jago community. The exploration of the historically black Pontchartrain Park community recovers the voices of a neighborhood almost wiped from public memory due to Hurricane Katrina and brings light to the ways in which oral interviews help preserve local historical identity and promote public history.

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This Sense of Place/This Living Archive

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This Sense of Place/This Living Archive

Cocreative Digitization and First Nations People’s Remembering

Benjamin Ridgeway

Ph.D. Candidate, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne, Australia, bridgeway92@gmail.com

Olivia Guntarik

Senior Lecturer, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne, Australia, olivia.guntarik@rmit.edu.au

Abstract In 2016, we organized digital storytelling workshops with First Nations1 participants in Melbourne (Australia) to cocreatively “map” sites of historical significance through locative technologies. These digital memory maps allowed participants to share their oral stories about their relationships to different places with broader audiences through a cultural walking trail mobile app from both their individual and their collective perspectives. Functioning much like a museum tour guide in an outdoor setting, we named this app “Memoryscapes,” as it would feature First Nations people’s memories of different places, allowing interested members of the public (tourists, students, and educators) to listen to and watch the digital stories as they physically walked the trail. We found that a cocreative archival framework for digitizing these oral histories supported our work with community. Through this project, we illustrate how First Nations people’s knowledges are populating the archive in forms that place the control of content back in their hands. These community-driven archives reveal how new archival practices are shifting the media landscape of representational possibilities. While calling attention to the politics of representing place, we also question the emancipatory potential of digital technologies for First Nations people.

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