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Madison Spotlight on Oral History in 2014

May 7, 2014

We’re pleased to have Troy Reeves, Head of the Oral History Program, back to talk a little more about the collection, access points, and the upcoming meeting.

written Troy Reeves
UW-Madison Oral History Program & The Oral History Review

When given this outlet back in October, I promised I’d be back to talk more about oral history and the upcoming national oral history conference. And here I am.

Oral History Arboretum Collection
Oral History Arboretum Collection

To define our term, oral history is a method of gathering and preserving, through a recorded interview, first-hand information with participants in past events and ways of life. Oral history, when done well, will create a primary source document—an audio or audio/video file with or without a typed transcript—for current and future generations to hear, see, or read.

Of course, this primary source gets used only if we preserve those files in a way that our users can find them. The essential information — or metadata — about our oral histories can be discovered on the Library Catalog or on the UW Madison Archives website. And nearly half of our 1,400 interviews (audio, summary, and, if extent, a transcript) are online at Minds@UW or inside the Digital Collection Center’s web portal, with more interviews being added weekly.

Since I last wrote, we have started to put audio clips on the Found in the Archives Tumblr. SLIS graduate student Michelle Dubert-Bellrichard recently posted an oral history interview between Bill Cronon and me. We will continue to put bits of our content online this way to connect with possible users through this social media platform.

Courtesy UW Archives: Sterling Hall Bombing aftermath
Courtesy UW Archives: Sterling Hall Bombing aftermath

I have also taken lead for the local planning committee for the upcoming Oral History Association Annual Meeting, happening here in Madison October 8-12, 2014. This year’s theme is Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations, and the Power of Story. Conference registration will be open in June. Upcoming conferences are all the way in Florida and California, so participate while you can!

OHA will have several events open to the public, not just registrants. These include a documentary theater piece, Uncivil Disobedience, which uses primary sources document from our oral history collection and archives to tell the story of the 1970 Sterling Hall Bombing through the words of those people who lived through it. We will present this work inside the soon-to-be-reopened Memorial Union Theater Play Circle.

That’s all from the Oral History Program for now. We hope you keep listening, and to see you soon at the OHA meeting.

Want to learn more about oral history at UW–Madison? Contact Troy Reeves here.