Tag Archives: Oral History Events

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

EVENT: Luisa Passerini, “Gender, Oral History, and the Historical Dialogue” 10/16 at 10AM

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights Presents:

Gender, Oral History, and the Historical Dialogue

WHO: Luisa Passerini has been Professor of Cultural History at the University of Torino, and is at present External Professor of History at the European University Institute, Florence, and Visiting Professor in the Oral History Master Program at Columbia University, New York. She has been Director of the research group Europe: Emotions, Identities, Politics at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen, and the recipient of the Research Prize of Nordrhein-Westfalen for 2002-04. Her present research areas include: European identity; the historical relationships between the discourse on Europe and the discourse on love; identity and migration; gender and generation as historical categories; memory and subjectivity.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 10:00-12:00PM

WHERE: Columbia University, International Affairs Building, Room 802. 420 W. 118th Street, 8th floor. MAP

[Audio] Throwing Stones at the Moon: A Q&A

On Tuesday, September 18, 2012 the Columbia Center for Oral History and the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) program were delighted to co-host Sibylla Brodzinsky and Max Schoening, editors of the latest Voice of Witness title Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence. Students of the Oral History Master of Arts program had the chance to sit down with Max and Sibylla for a Q&A session which covered several fascinating topics, including how they started this project, their interviewing methodologies, the book editing process, and their responsibilities to their narrators.

Listen to the Q&A below:

This session was recorded and edited by OHMA students Kyana Moghadam and Sam Robson:

Kyana is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Oral History at Columbia University. Originally from the East Bay, California, she is excited to be in New York collecting and editing life histories of Iranian Americans.

Sam holds a B.A. from Carleton College in history, focusing on Africa and its Diaspora. A current student in the Oral History Master of Arts program, he is interested in experiences of U.S. hegemony in Central America.



The Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) Program and the Voice of Witness Presents


WHO: Sibylla Brodzinsky, is a journalist who has written on Latin American Politics, social issues, and human rights for The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Guardian, and Max Schoening is a researcher for Human Rights Watch and contributing researcher for an upcoming photographic book, Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict by Stephen Ferry. The two will discuss their latest book, Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence that documents Colombians’ narratives of forced displacement. Staff will also be on hand to talk with prospective students about the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) program at Columbia University.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 6:30-8:00pm.

WHERE: Columbia University Law School, Jerome Greene Annex, Morningside Heights Campus, 410 West 117th Street NY, NY 10027. Enter campus at 116th Street, at either Broadway or Amsterdam. Google Map, Campus Map.

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP: The Oral History Master of Arts program (OHMA) and Voice of Witness, will host editors Sibylla Brodzinsky and Max Schoening as part of the Oral History Seminar Series. Brodzinsky and Schoening will discuss and read from their new book, which is an astonishing account of the forced displacement, which was a consequence of Colombia’s internal armed conflict during the past five decades. In Throwing Stones at the Moon narrators explain the effect of this human rights crisis on their lives as they recount their displacement, the reasons for their flight, and their struggle to rebuild their lives.

There will also be a presentation from faculty and alumni about the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA), a multi-disciplinary program that utilizes theoretical approaches across the social sciences and humanities.

SPONSORS: This talk is part of the “Oral History Seminar Series,” co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) and the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA). OHMA is supported by the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences.

INFORMATION: For more information, please email Terrell Frazier at terrellfrazier@columbia.edu



Here is a roundup of news and happenings in the field of oral history. Follow us on Twitter @CU_OralHistory and “like” us on Facebook for the latest news and events.


Tule Lake Committee Contributes to Japanese American Legacy Project

During World War II, more than 18,000 members of the Japanese American community were detained by the United States government at an internment camp in Tule Lake, California. Today, this immigrant experience is not one that is often shared. As a result, the Tule Lake Committee has received a grant from the California Council on the Humanities to use oral history as a way to tell the stories of Japanese American protest at Tule Lake, and is also partnering with Densho and the National Japanese Historical Society to conduct full life story oral history interviews with people who were incarcerated at Tule Lake and forced to renounce their U.S. citizenship as part of the Japanese American Legacy Project.

Read more at Common Dreams and access interviews at Densho’s Digital Archive

Columbia University’s Center for Social Sciences Chronicles the History of First Campaigns

An oral historian at Columbia University’s Paul F. Lazarsfeld Center for Social Sciences, Jeffrey H. Brodsky, has conducted more than 60 hours of oral history interviews with politicians recounting their first political races. Brodsky humanizes politicians as he gives them the opportunity to articulate the doubts, motivations, and inspirations during the campaigns that formed the foundation of their public careers. Through a series of video interviews, audiences everywhere can witness the vulnerabilities of politicians, especially during the early stages of their careers.

Read more at The Washington Post

Veteran’s Oral History Project Preserves Veteran’s Stories

Organized and overseen by the Library of Congress and American Folklife Center, the Veteran’s Oral History Project promotes the preservation of veteran’s stories and experiences related to their participation in the United States armed forces. The Fayetteville Public Library is one of the many libraries across the nation that has agreed to take part in the project, as they also believe veterans need to share their experiences, no longer how long they’ve served.

Read more at The City Wire and learn how to take part in the project at The Library of Congress

Bancroft Library’s Regional Oral History Office Conducts Oral History Project on Bay Bridge

As part of an oral history series sponsored by the California Department of Transportation, the Regional Oral History Office team at UC Berkley is conducting a widespread call for stories from those who were involved in the design, construction, and continued maintenance and managing of the Bay Bridge up to the 1950’s. As the longest bridge in the world when it was built, collected oral histories on the history and role of the Bay Bridge to the San Francisco region will not only inform scholars, students, and community members alike, but also be a part of an exhibition dedicated to the environmental history of the San Francisco Bay, opening at the Oakland Museum of California in September of 2013 during the induction of the new Bay Bridge.

Read more at UC Berkley News Center

Houston Community College Southeast Produces Oral History Project Promoting Latino Legacy

After its establishment in the 1890s, the Magnolia Park neighborhood in Houston, Texas, became home to thousands of early Mexican and Tejano settlers. To understand and promote the legacy of Latinos in this community, the president of Houston Community College Southeast commissioned the Magnolia Park Oral History Project, a thirty-part digital film project documenting the people, history, and legacy of the Magnolia Park neighborhood with over 100 interviews and 2000 photographs of community members and their ancestors. Once completed, the project will become a part of a permanent exhibition available to the public in the Houston Community College Southeast’s campus museum.

Read more at the Media Room


Nixon Presidential Library and Museum Releases Formerly Restricted Oral Histories

The Nixon Library and Museum has just released interviews conducted with Judiciary members and the Impeachment Inquiry staff responsible for investigating whether or not sufficient grounds existed for the potential impeachment of President Nixon. These oral histories represent one of the first times staff members have publically discussed work on Nixon’s impeachment inquiry and have been made available via YouTube videos for public access.

Read more at NixonLibrary.gov

Visit the collection here

University of California Santa Cruz Completes Project on the History of Organic Farming

Stories from 58 farmers, activists, researchers, and educators from the early 1960s to today have been released in a new oral history project on the history of organic farming in the Santa Cruz area. Collected by the Regional History Project at the University of California Santa Cruz’s University Library, transcripts of the interviews are available in text and audio format, along with photographs and additional resources.

Read more at Weekend Hippie

Visit the collection here


Oral History in the Digital Age Teaches Us “How To…”

Looking to learn the fundamentals of oral history technology? In the “How To” section of the Oral History in the Digital Age website, those new to Oral History can learn how to achieve good audio recording levels, understand microphones, use lighting for video interviews, digitally preserve interviews and more!