Oral history resources for teachers…and parents now teaching at home

A round-up of resources made available to the public by educators using oral histories from the Oral History Archives at Columbia Collections.

Voices of Virginia: An Auditory Primary Source Reader
Curators Jessica Taylor, PhD with Emily Stewart

“Voices of Virginia pulls together stories from oral history collections from across decades and archives to create an all-audio source companion for Virginia’s high school and college students. The “album” is only two hours long, but contains dozens of short oral histories from eyewitnesses to key moments in American history, from the end of the Civil War to the 1980s. The excerpts are downloadable, accessible by smartphone, and accompanied by a transcript. Audio clips are also available on Soundcloud. You’ll also find a brief introduction to each narrator, historical context adapted from  experts at Encyclopedia Virginia, American Yawp, and Public Domain sources, and helpful classroom tools like discussion questions, activities, and lesson plans that fit into both the Virginia high school and college U.S. History curriculum. By following the larger national story with narratives from across the Commonwealth, Voices of Virginia grounds students in how history guides and is guided by everyday people and their experiences.”

This material is aligned to the History and Social Science Standards for Virginia Public Schools – March 2015.

The Roots and Legacy of 9/11

Students from the Ransom Everglades School in the 2019 “America in the Post-9/11 World” class created this thematic website examining the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The goal of this site is “to explore the aftermath of the attacks, rather than the attacks themselves,” which the students accomplished through primary source research, including existing oral histories. Included on the syllabus and in the students’ research is Mary Marshall Clark’s book on designing the Columbia Center for Oral History Research’s September 11, 2001 Oral History Project, After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 2001 and the Years That Followed.

Oral History Archives at Columbia (OHAC) Resources

While many of our oral history interviews follow the tradition of the transcript as the “record of note,” we are increasingly bringing online interviews recently digitized. You can find them in the Columbia University Libraries’ Digital Library Collection.

An innovative way to experience oral history audio and transcripts is via the Carnegie Corporation of New York Digital Collections. In the collection you’ll find transcripts and audio that have been “synchronized” using a custom tool the Columbia’s Digital Library and Scholarly Technologies unit built for this purpose.

A number of oral history interview in the collection are featured in Professor George Chauncy and doctoral student Nikita Shepard’s Global History of Sexualities online research guide.

In the OHAC research guide there are links for helping students conduct their own oral history interviews. For example, the Do History website features a Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History, which includes advice for developing questions and ethical concerns, such as consent.

Below is a printable zine about the basics of oral history designed by Vanessa Lee (Exhibitions Design for RBML) and Kimberly Springer (Curator for Oral History).