Category Archives: Oral History

Want to learn about oral history?

January 26 | Location: Columbia University, Knox Hall

Photo by Vanilla Bear Films on Unsplash

Looking to learn something new in the new year? Join the Oral History Master’s (OHMA) program for an intensive day of workshops with OHMA faculty and alumni! Register now – these always sell out!

OHMA will also be hosting their annual Spring Open House that very same week on the evening of Thursday, January 24, 2019! The Oral History Archives at Columbia often accepts stellar oral history projects from OHMA students that align with our current collecting priorities. The OHMA open house is a good opportunity to explore the research, teaching and employment opportunities in a field that keeps gaining in its methodological strength and topical inclusiveness.

Marking World AIDS Day with oral histories from the collections

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

On December 1, health care practitioners, among others, are recognizing World AIDS Day. The goal is to bring awareness to the fact that AIDS and HIV remain a global pandemic. This year’s theme is “Know Your Status.”

World AIDS Day BadgeFor some historical perspective on the AIDS crisis, we had look at a few of the 74 interviews that make up the Physicians and AIDS oral history project housed in the RBML. About the project,

To construct a collective biography of the early AIDS doctors, Ronald Bayer, Columbia University professor of public health, and Gerald Oppenheimer, associate professor of clinical public health, turned to oral history. After extensive preparation, interviewing, and editing, they published AIDS Doctors: Voices from the Epidemic, an historical account of the epidemic through the eyes of the doctors who experienced it.

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New Exhibition | Dynamic Archives: renaming and identifying collections

Why would an archivist change the name of a collection? That’s the central question behind a new RBML exhibit.

Dynamic Archives features examples of archival collections and materials whose naming, identifying and meaning have had to keep up with historical, social and political perspectives, as well as translation practices and epistemologies. Continue reading

Remembering 9/11 through oral histories

To say that the events of September 11, 2001 had a lasting impact on New York City, the nation and the world would be an understatement.

In the days after the attack, the Columbia Oral History Research Office, as the combined research and archives arms were known then, had the foresight, skill and tact to design and execute a large-scale oral history project to hear from New Yorkers about how 9/11 had already changed their lives.

Under the leadership of oral historian Mary Marshall Clark,

The September 11, 2001 Oral History Project consists of five projects and programs focusing on different areas of inquiry related to the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. As of the tenth anniversary, the project as a whole amounts to over 900 recorded hours (23 hours on video) with over 600 individuals.

Click to play video on The New York Times’ website.

You can hear excerpts from some of the oral histories from this New York Times article and read more about the project.

Oral history interviews with Supreme Court justices

Who will be the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy?

The confirmation hearings to vet this administration’s nominee have begun. Reporters are describing what went down on day one as unlike anything they’ve seen before in, collectively, years of judicial reporting.

While you watch and wait to see what happens, stop into the RBML’s Center for Oral History Archives and read transcripts with past Justices.

Here are the interview transcripts we have available in our reading room:

Lebron james in white judge wig and robe

If you only know TV judges, please come read some oral histories with actual judges.

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New Collection | Black Journalists Oral History Project

Oral History master’s student and RBML graduate student worker, Kyna Patel, was part of the team that organized and processed a collection that documents important moments in black journalism in America.

The Black Journalists Oral History Project consists of interviews with journalists, editors, publishers, and various members of the black press about a wide range of issues. Conducted by Henry G. La Brie III in the 1970s, the interviews cover: aspects of running a newspaper (editing, printing, getting news, advertising, etc.), the Kerner Commission Report, the historical role of the black press, the white establishment press, and several other topics related to race and journalism.

yellow book cover for Perspectives of the Black Press 1974

Some of the oral history interviews in the Black Journalists Oral History Project. Mercer House Press.

In helping process this collection, I read and listened to transcripts and audio from these interviews and stumbled upon many things that were not on my radar. Accounts of the suburbanization and white flight’s effect on local black press’ circulation, how the success of Ebony paved the way for black models to be hired more for national advertising, and the obstacles and dangers encountered by journalists reporting and gathering-news-while-black were either new to me or expanded upon in a more real and accessible way than what I learned in school. Continue reading

Featured oral history | Max Pruss, the captain of the Hindenburg airship

One can’t help but notice the explosion of podcasts available for download from sources both commercial and nonprofit.

The Columbia Center for Oral History Archives fields requests for permission to use excerpts from our oral history collection in radio and podcast productions. In addition to any restrictions or permissions that might apply, as Curator of Oral History, I consider the integrity of the project: will the oral history narrator’s story be served and/or augmented by the production?

A recent example of good use of our oral history collection is this story from the CBC’s podcast, The Hook. Max Pruss, air pilot of the ill-fated Hindenburg. Pruss sat down with, as it was called then, the Oral History Research Office in 1960 as part of our Aviation Project. For The Hook, Pruss’ granddaughter Viola, produced this documentary, Finding Max.

Hindeburg airship crash

Photo | David Erickson | e-strategycom | Flickr

 

Now open for business: The Federated Department Stores oral history collection

neon open for business sign

Photo: @opensourceway, Flickr

One of the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives’ specializations is business history. Notably, in 1965, the oral history research office conducted a number of interviews related to the history, business practices and the evolution of consumer tastes of the Federated Department Stores from its founding in 1929.

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Event | Push Play

Thursday, April 5, 2018, 6:00 PM  7:30 PM, Knox Hall Room 509

Two women in front of whiteboard.

Push Play is a collaboration between OHMA alums Liza Zapol and Nicki Pombier Berger.

Push Play explores the embodied experience of interviewing as a way of examining how we remember, how we ask narrators to engage in memory, and what is, or is not, included in the archive. We draw on creativity and sense of play as a way of pushing through limits in the practice of oral history. Read more about this participatory workshop.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information, please email Amy Starecheski at aas39@columbia.edu.

Event | Performing Listening in the Context of Memorial Audio Walks

Thursday, March 29, 2018, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, Knox Hall 509

The Columbia Center for Oral History Research continues its series on Oral History and the Arts.

Does a performance of memory need to include words? When is it necessary and appropriate to re-present someone else’s oral history testimony? What roles do listening, remembering and going public play in the performance of oral history? In this talk, Professor Luis Sotelo (University Concordia) will explore these questions by looking at a series of examples of work by him, by social actors (memory activists), and by other artists.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Read more about the workshop.