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Bureau of Audio-Visual Instruction, 1958. Courtesy of UW–Madison Archives and UW Digital Collections #S09468

Wisconsin, and Madison in particular, will be front and center during the Oral History Association’s 48th annual meeting at the Madison Concourse Hotel, October 8-12, 2014. This year’s theme, “Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations, and the Power of Story” speaks to the rich history of Wisconsin, and Madison, says Ed Van Gemert, University of Wisconsin–Madison Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian.

“We are thrilled to host this year’s meeting. Madison is a fascinating cultural hub, and the perfect place to look at the evolution of oral history,” Van Gemert says. “Between the Wisconsin Idea, and serving as a major center of social movements for decades, we have the opportunity to showcase the importance of oral history.”

The gathering is expected to attract more than 500 librarians, historians, archivists, and educators from around the country. The event will include sessions in oral history and social change, preservation and access, and community history, among others. Discussions will focus on the myriad new possibilities, and challenges, created by the digital revolution in the collection, curation, presentation, and preservation of oral history.

“Oral history is one of a kind material that libraries, like UW–Madison, need to take ownership in showcasing,” says Troy Reeves, Head of the Oral History Program with UW–Madison Archives. “UW’s Oral History Program, the materials available through our Archives and Special Collections, and countless other resources within the UW Libraries, offer the public a unique and personal look into history.”

Dow Protests on the UW-Madison campus, 1967. Courtesy of UW–Madison Archives and UW Digital Collections #S00866

During the week, performances showcasing important moments in Madison history will be available to the public. A special staged performance of “Uncivil Disobedience” will take place on Oct. 8. The piece highlights the thunderous events of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement, including the 1970 bombing of UW–Madison’s Sterling Hall. On Oct. 10, a unique documentary, “Private Violence,” which addresses the history of domestic violence against women, will be screened at the Madison Public Library’s central branch. Jazz great, and UW–Madison music faculty, Richard Davis will also provide an oral history interview on Oct. 11.

“We have been delighted with the local response to the conference,” states Oral History Association executive director Cliff Kuhn. “The enthusiasm among people in Madison has been tremendous. We anticipate a great exchange between local residents interested in oral history and practitioners from across the country and even the world.”

Coordinators hope the hands-on workshops and public events raise awareness of not only oral history, but the libraries roles in documenting for the future. The OHA meeting is sponsored by the UW–Madison Libraries, Department of History, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the School of Music, and funded in part by the Humanities Council.

Events Open to the Public:

  • Oct. 8: “Uncivil Disobedience”/Memorial Union Theater/6:30-8:30p Performance will highlight the oral histories of thunderous events in the Vietnam-era anti-war movement, including the 1970 bombing of UW–Madison’s Sterling Hall.
  • Oct. 10: “Private Violence” Documentary screening/Madison Public Library/7:30-9:30p Private Violence, an HBO documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, intimately reveals the stories of two women: Deanna Walters and Kit Gruelle. This feature-length documentary film explores a simple, but deeply disturbing fact of American life: the most dangerous place for a woman in America can be her own home.
  • Oct. 11: Best Practices Teacher Workshop/Madison Public Library, Central Branch/9:00a-noon Three-hour teacher workshop will focus on best practices for 4-12 grade educators. **Please note this event has limited space and availability**
  • Oct. 11: Community Showcase/Concourse Hotel/1:30-4:30p Nearly two dozen oral historians and history groups will display the results of their projects and talk to guests and attendees about oral history in general and their projects in particular.
  • Oct: 11: Richard Davis Oral History Interview/Concourse Hotel/7:30-9p Legendary jazzman and UW–Madison music faculty member Richard Davis will sit down and be interviewed; the oral history will eventually reside at UW–Madison Archives’ oral history collection.