Tag Archives: Columbia University

Join us for Our 2014-2015 Workshop Series: Oral History, Medicine, and Health

Fall 2014 Oral History Workshop Series: Oral History, Medicine, and Health

This academic year in our public workshop series, in partnership with the Program in Narrative Medicine, the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University will be exploring the intersections of oral history, health and medicine. As public health professionals experiment with using oral history to access new realms of knowledge about health and social life, practitioners of narrative medicine deploy oral history to engage with patients, and oral historians partner with people with disabilities, dementia, and mental illness to record and amplify their stories, the time is right for an in-depth multidisciplinary engagement of the productive areas where these fields meet.

Full schedule and descriptions

All Events are Free and Open to the Public
Campus Map.


Sam Robson. “Oral History Meets Dementia: A Staged Reading of the Play Timothy and Mary.”

Thursday, September 11, 6-8pm, The Faculty House at Columbia University, Seminar Room One.

Luke Gerwe. “Seeking Witness: Voice of Witness and Building an Oral History Network.”

Thursday, September 18, 6-8pm, Room 509, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor.


Teiji Okamoto. “A Radical Archive of Be(long)ing.”

Thursday, October 2, 6-8pm, Room 509, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor.

Sayantani DasGupta. “Narrative Humility: Medical Listening and Oral History.”

Thursday, October 16, 6-8pm, Room 509, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor.


Brian Purnell. ” Can the Oral Historian Speak?

Thursday, November 6, 6-8pm, Room 509, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor.

Nicki Berger. “Oral History and Intellectual Disability: Navigating Authority, Authorship, and Advocacy.

Thursday, November 13, 6-8pm, Room 509, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor.

Stay posted for upcoming events in the Spring!

Feb. 5: Ann Cvetkovich. “After Depression: Reflections on Oral and Written Personal Narrative as Archive of Feelings.”

Feb. 12: Joanne Ahola. “Finding the Contours of Torture.”

Feb. 26: Christopher Sellers. “Stories of Environmental Danger: A Collective

Mar. 5: Kathy Davis. “Bodies, Embodiment, and the Experience of Passion: What Tango Dancers Can Teach Us.”

Mar. 12: Lynda Crane and Tracy McDonough. “Oral History with Vulnerable Populations: The Schizophrenia Oral History Project.

Mar. 26: Ron Doel. “Oral History and the History of Science and Medicine.”

Apr. 2: Alessandro Portelli. “Stories I Skipped: Narratives of Care, Narratives of War.

Apr. 16: Ynestra King. “Listening with the Whole Body in Mind Feminist Oral History Project.”

Apr. 30: Aline Gubrium and Elizabeth L. Krause.”Digital Storytelling as Narrative Shock: New Views on Young Parenting Latinas, Migration, and Family.

Please refer to oralhistory.columbia.edu for updated information, or email Amy Starecheski, Associate Director of OHMA, at aas39(at)columbia.edu.

Public Screening and Conversation: One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo & Gene Viernes

The Columbia Center for Oral History Research Presents
A Public Screening and Conversation:

One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes

domingo-viernes1About: One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes explores the legacy and impact of the work and lives of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, two Filipino-American activists and fishing cannery union members who were murdered for their involvement in union reform and workers’ rights activism.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 17, 6:00-8:00pm.

WHERE: Columbia University, Knox Hall, Room 509, 606 West 122nd Street, 5th floor. Campus Map.

MORE INFORMATION: Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; screening of the one-hour documentary starts at 6:10 p.m.; followed by a post-film discussion led by documentary co-producer Ron Chew and public historian and curator Jennifer Scott.

Ron Chew is the author of Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: The Legacy of Filipino American Labor Activism. He served as executive director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum from 1991-2007. Known as an innovator using cutting-edge presentations with a locally oriented emphasis, Chew helped redefine museums by melding cultural identity, civic participation, and museum programs into a new tool in the fight for social justice.

Jennifer Scott is a Part-Time Professor at The New School for Public Engagement, Parsons School of Art and Design History and Theory, and Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Arts and Cultural Management in New York, where she teaches courses in cultural anthropology, material culture, world heritage, museum studies, and cultural pluralism. Scott, most recently, served for ten years as the Vice-Director and Director of Research at Weeksville Heritage Center, a historic house museum specializing in innovative study and applications of history, culture, the arts and civic engagement.

For more information, please email Terrell Frazier at terrellfrazier[at]columbia.edu



May 1 at 5pm: Social Hall: An Oral History Exhibit

The Social Hall: an Oral History Exhibit
Produced and curated by Columbia University’s OHMA Students

Please join us to celebrate our exploration of oral history-based projects

WHEN:     Thursday, May 1, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE:    Social Hall
Union Theological Seminary
3041 Broadway (at 121st Street)
New York, New York 10027


Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts 2014 Cohort is proud to present “Social Hall,” an exhibition of complex projects that both challenge and advance the field of oral history. By considering multimedia applications and social presentations, we wish to introduce a new audience to the field and to share its significance in our world, both past and present.

“Social Hall” is made up of individual projects that address a wide range of topics, including Argentina’s struggle for memory in a post-dictatorship society, a woman’s journey from Fort Mojave Indian Tribe to Yale University, the explorations of a scrap diver, definition of community in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and a documentary on Black men during the era of Black Power and Black Nationalism. These projects are connected through their dependence on oral history and their engagement with living individuals, our narrators.  All projects in this exhibit were developed by OHMA students.


The Oral History Master of Arts is the first program of its kind: a one-yearinterdisciplinary Master of Arts degree training students in oral history method and theory.  Jointly run by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research, one of the preeminent oral history centers in the world, and INCITE, a lively hub for interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences, OHMA connects students with the intellectual resources of a major research university, and with the intimate society of a small cohort of talented students.May 1 Flyer

Surfacing Solutions: A Reflection on Oral History and Domestic Violence

The following post was written by OHMA students Sara Wolcott and Ellen Brooks:

In Alisa Del Tufo’s talk on Thursday, January 31st the oral historian and activist sought to inspire her large audience with the story of her life’s work.

Del Tufo credits inflection points, or life changing moments, with the direction of her career and her inspiration to use oral history to surface new solutions to domestic violence. The first major such inflection point was in 1987. The case of Hedda Nussbaum and Joel Steinberg, in which a young girl, Lisa Steinberg, was killed at the hands of Joel Steinberg, stirred significant public controversy and prompted Del Tufo to explore the link between adult domestic violence and child maltreatment; which up until this point had been ignored and unexplored.


In 1991 Del Tufo left Sanctuary for Families, which she had founded in 1984, and began the oral history project that ultimately opened up New York City’s eyes to intimate violence. To hear Alyssa explain the project, the ah-ha moment that led her to try oral history as a method and what she learned, listen to the following clip:

Conducting these interviews was a second inflection point for Del Tufo and whatsurfaced in these conversations with battered women inspired her to begin meeting with influential feminists, politicians, and community activists to begin to make a change. The primary result was a domestic violence handbook, “Behind Closed Doors: The City’s Response to Domestic Violence,” which brought the issue to the front and center of the city’s politics.


In oral history, we look at “a-ha moments” as moments when the narrator is able to create a new thought or response though the process of the oral history interview, “I didn’t know I felt that way” or “I’d never thought about it that way before.” This is not entirely different from what Del Tufo deems an inflection point. Both are self-imposed structural shifts in the narrative. When using oral history as a tool of activism, it is the a-ha moment or inflection point that recognizes the problem and can lead to the corresponding action.

As aspiring oral historians themselves, the authors of this blog post experienced a few inflection points/a-ha moments during the discussion. Sara was challenged and motivated by Del Tufo’s assertion that in order to make change, one must choose the right moment. As oral historians looking to make an impact on the world, what is our moment? Is it possible to not only choose the moment, but to create the moment? Can one document the present to change the future? Ellen’s inflection point came when Del Tufo discussed altruism as a motivation for battered women to tell their stories. Many of the women Del Tufo interviewed agreed to these intimate conversations not for their own well-being, but because they believed their stories might help others in the same situation. Should we assume (or hope) that these altruistic motives can be found in other at-risk communities? Towards the end of the discussion several people discussed other issues to which Alisa’s methods might apply – such as elder abuse and sex trafficking. How can we tap into and encourage this community service model elsewhere?

For more information on oral history projects inspiring social change, check out the following sites:

Groundswell http://www.oralhistoryforsocialchange.org/

Tibet Oral History Project http://tibetoralhistory.org/index.html

Voices of Rwanda http://voicesofrwanda.org/

Khmer Legacies http://khmerlegacies.org/

It Gets Better http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject

Cleveland Homeless Oral History Project  http://youtu.be/NHRkPuJfasg

Other organizations founded by Alisa Del Tufo:

Connect http://www.connectnyc.org

Threshold Collaborative http://www.thresholdcollaborative.org

[Video] Oral History and Public Health

On Thursday, December 6, 2012, the Columbia Center for Oral History in partnership with the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) Program, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program (CUSP), and Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars co-hosted the event, The Newtown Creek Community Health and Harms Narrative Project: Oral History and Public Health.  The event was part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series and an Open House for the OHMA Program.

The event started with a Q&A session between Suzanne Snider and the current OHMA students about her work as a writer and an oral historian.  In addition to teaching at the New School University, Snider is also the founder and director of Oral History Summer School. She has worked as an interviewer for Columbia University’s Center for Oral History, the New York Academy of Medicine, HBO Productions, and the Prison Public Memory Project among others.

During the Q&A session, students asked Snider about how she got her start in the field of oral history.  She spoke about getting her MFA in Nonfiction at Columbia, but it was in fact, an Oral History course that led her to fall in love with the field and eventually to pursue a career in it.  She then presented on her latest project, which focused on documenting the public health concerns of individuals residing in communities along Newtown Creek in New York City.  Snider spoke about some of the major problems encountered during the course of the project as well as the online mapping and social networking platform, Habitat Map, which was instrumental in her approach and methodology to give voice to community members who had been impacted by their polluted environment.

As part of the Open House for the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA), the event also included a short introduction by the Director of OHMA, Mary Marshall Clark, and comments from an alumna of the program, Kristen LaFollette and the Associate Director of OHMA, Amy Starecheski.

Post by OHMA student Maye Saephanh

[Photos & Recap] Folk Music as Oral History: A Performance by The 198 String Band

On Thursday, October 4, 2012, the Columbia Center for Oral History and the Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts program hosted the event, “‘We’d Rather Not Be on the Rolls of Relief’: Folk Music as/and Oral History: Civic Engagement Through Songs, Documentary Photographs and Voices from the Depression and the New Deal.”

The workshop included a presentation by Michael Frisch and a performance by the 198 String Band. Frisch, a renowned historian and scholar, joins Peggy Milliron and Tom Naples to form this unique musical experience of Great Depression Era photography and folk music.

Milliron sifted through thousands of time period photographs from Library of Congress holdings and chose those that complement, as opposed to illustrate, the songs. She described the importance of using images that spoke to her understandings of the music rather than the most iconic photographs from the era.

Similarly, the songs, frequently chosen by Naples, were most often not popular pieces still in circulation today. Instead, they were largely archived recordings by the Farm Security Administration in migrant camps and struggling homesteads.

The result of these combined efforts is a multimedia representation that incorporates music through the lens of history. The presentation was further enhanced by the addition of oral history recordings that spoke to similar subjects as the songs themselves.

The event, which was open to the public, allowed for a forum to discuss the music and discover the personal and collective stories behind the songs and photographs. The dialogue focused on the themes that continue to resonate with modern America, spanning financial hardship, economic disparity, and human resilience.

Most notably, the musicians described their presentation as a work in progress, as they continue to absorb feedback from their workshops and expand their research interests.

This post was written by OHMA students Erica Fugger and Miriam Laytner:

Erica is recent graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York, where she obtained an interdepartmental degree in History and German Studies. Her current research involves interviews with former workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and peace activism during the Vietnam War.

Miriam is a graduate student in the Oral History Master of the Arts program at Columbia University. As a senior at Barnard College, she wrote her thesis on the use of West African oral traditions as a tool of resistance in pre-emancipation Caribbean countries. Miriam is presently interviewing Caribbean Americans to gain insight into their experiences of religion.