By Andrew Shaffer
As is becoming tradition, we want to use this, our last blog post of the year, to look back over last 12 months and remember all the fun we’ve had together. We have been drawn in by the “seductive intimacy” of oral history, and inspired by the power of audio to move “oral history out of the archives and back into communities.” We explored the world of transcriptionists and museum curators, and looked at projects that are putting oral history on the map. We asked practitioners to explain how they do oral history, and we are looking for contributors to expand this series in the coming year.
Our first series of the year was a dialogue between Tim Cole and Henry Greenspan about space and time in oral history interviews. In the first part, they delve into positioning and ask how we can think through a narrator’s physical and intellectual movements. In the second part, they wonder if “the now usual way we engage survivors and their retelling—the ‘testimony’ paradigm itself—is beginning to crumble.” Their conversation continues to spark ideas, and we are happy to help highlight the movements within our changing discipline
Another of our favorite things this year was the launch of our #OriginStories series, where we asked people from across the field to explain how they got into oral history, and why they love it. We started way back in February with Dana Gerber-Margie’s journey from the “gateway drug” of This American Life to her career as an audio archivist. Since then, we’ve heard from Adrienne Cain, Jessica Taylor, and Steven Sielaff, whose stories highlight both the power and value of oral history education.
In June, we celebrated Pride by talking to Josh Burford, who is using oral history and memory to resist anti-LGBTQ laws in North Carolina, and Jason Ruiz, who gave an in depth exploration of the article he co-wrote in The Oral History Review. The article was part of a special issue “Listening to and Learning from LGBTQ Lives” – another highlight from 2016. On the blog we also heard from contributors to the issue who explained the importance of music in queer memories, and the queer history of Madison, WI.
This year we also launched a blog takeover, where we invited students and alums from the Oral History MA program at Columbia University to occupy our little corner of the internet throughout the month of July. We are big fans of their blog and were excited to republish some articles by Audrey Augenbraum and Eylem Delikanli. One of my personal favorites was a piece by Andrew Viñales, in which he showed that oral history can be “a way for [students] to understand that the civil rights movement has never ended, that social justice movements always build from movements of the past.”
The most important event of the fall season is, of course, the OHA Annual Meeting, which took place in Long Beach, CA this year. We enlisted a local to explain some of the city’s fascinating history, and asked some of you to tell us what you love about the conference. We published a shortened version of a conference paper from Margaret Holloway, on her use of oral history in preserving a historically Black town in Alabama, and our own Troy Reeves took to the blog to show his gratitude for his OHA friends and family. We’re already counting down the days to #OHA2017, and hope you’re working hard on your proposals (reminder: the deadline for submission is January 31!).
Thanks for indulging our attempt to remember the good parts of 2016, even as we are eager to bid this year goodbye and good riddance. We hope to see you back on the blog again soon!
Featured image: “Christmas gift #3” by photochem_PA, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.