Tag Archives: Oral History

Talks & Workshops | Oral History and the Future: Archives and Embodied Memory

The Oral History Master of Arts Program is pleased to announce the spring portion of its 2018-2019 workshop series: Oral History and the Future: Archives and Embodied Memory

Oral history is a conversation about the past that takes place in the present and is oriented towards the future. How is this future orientation made real?

Oral history as a research practice, particularly in the United States, has been defined by a focus on recording and archiving in institutional repositories. But people can be archives too, and oral history-telling practices more broadly often depend on embodied memory, on person-to-person transmission. And because people have been formally recording and archiving oral histories for over seventy years, we are now living in the futures imagined by earlier generations of oral historians.

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Summer Institute in Oral History announced

The Columbia Center for Oral History Research’s 2019 Summer Institute in Oral History will focus on the challenges we face in documenting the political present when secrecy and distortions of truth threaten the most vulnerable in open societies.

What role does public memory and the search for meaning play in rescuing and preserving the stories that we most need to hear?

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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.

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

10/1 @ 6PM: Doing Recent History: History that Talks (and Tweets!) Back

DoingRecentHistory book cover

Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 6:00 PM
Columbia University’s Butler Library, Room 523
535 West 114th Street, NYC

  • Why is writing living history challenging?
  • What are the ethics of doing research on social media?
  • How can archivists balance the ethics of open access and ethics of privacy?
  • Do historians watch enough TV?!

Join Tenured Radical Claire Bond Potter, editor of Doing Recent History, as she engages with these questions and more with contributors to the book, including historian David Greenberg, and archivists Laura Hart and Nancy Kaiser.

This event is free and open to the public.

This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives.


David Greenberg is a professor of history and of journalism & media studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and the author of several books, most recently Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency  (W.W. Norton, 2016). Formerly managing editor and acting editor of The New Republic, he has also written for The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, The Washington Post, and many other scholarly and popular publications. He now writes a column for Politico.

Laura Hart is the coordinator of the Digital Southern Historical Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collection Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked with Southern Historical Collection materials since 2001.

Nancy Kaiser is an archivist at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collection Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked with Southern Historical Collection materials since 2000.

Claire Bond Potter received her B.A. in English from Yale University and her Ph.D. in History from New York University. She is currently Professor of History and Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative at the New School. Formerly the sole author of the education blog Tenured Radical at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Potter has also written War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998), and with Renee Romano, she is co-editor of Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012.) She is currently writing a book about radical feminism and the war on violence against women in the 1970s and 1980s. Her published work includes articles on feminism, digital humanities, political and queer history; a new collection of essays on digital humanities, which will open for crowd-sourced refereeing in January 2016, is under contract to the University of North Carolina Press.

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News from the Oral History Archives

early oral history interview

James P. Warburg being interviewed by Dean Albertson, 1952.

In the 1930s, journalist, biographer, and Columbia professor of history, Allan Nevins began to worry that future historians would find a dearth of evidence documenting the personal side of historic events because ephemeral telephone conversations were replacing letter writing.

Nevins began experimenting with what he called oral autobiography: interviews with “living Americans who have led significant lives,” (Gateway to History, 1938).

Nevins conducted his first interview on May 18, 1948 and the field of oral history was born. This exciting new historical research methodology attracted the support of historians Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. and Richard Hofstadter, cultural critic Lionel Trilling, and other preeminent intellectuals of the time. The Columbia Center for Oral History Archives is now one of the largest oral history collections in the country, containing over 10,000 interviews. Continue reading