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E-Seminars: E-Seminar Detail
Discovering Your Community through Oral History
E-Seminar 1, How to Create a Community Oral-History Project

Taught by: Mary Marshall Clark

E-Seminar Description
Oral history is the practice of recording and preserving interviews for the purpose of interpreting information about the past. It involves the study both of personal and of social experiences and is centered in the collision between autobiography and biography, representing at least two perspectives on history and yielding many more. Although in its modern form it dates only to the 1930s and the invention of the tape recorder, oral history as the practice of telling and writing stories to transmit cultural and historical knowledge is probably as old as language itself.

In this online seminar, Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Columbia University Oral History Office, the world's first official oral-history archive, offers detailed instruction on how to perform an oral-history interview and how to organize and operate a community oral-history project. The seminar includes audio and text examples from the rich archives of Columbia's Oral History Office.

E-Seminar Length:3-5 hours
Start Date:Anytime
Columbia Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni:FREE

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Note: Columbia students, faculty, staff, and alumni will need to use their University Network ID (UNI) to access e-seminars.

E-Seminar Objectives | Outline | Instructor's Background | Recommended Reading | Technical Requirements

E-Seminar Objectives
•    Identify the strategies and techniques necessary for performing a professional, high-quality oral-history interview.

•   Hear from a leading professional suggestions for what kind of questions to ask in the interview.

•   Learn the basics of organizing the effort to compile a community oral history.

•   Read and listen to examples of individual and community oral histories.

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1.About Oral History
2.Developing a Project Design
3.Organizing a Community-History Project
4.Interviewing Is an Art
5.Doing Community Oral History

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Instructor's Background
Instructor's Background
Mary Marshall Clark is Director of the Columbia University Oral History Research Office. The Office, founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Allan Nevins in 1948, was the first university-based organized oral-history program and archive in the world. It is the leading program for teaching oral-history methods and theory in the United States and is an international center for research and scholarship in the field of oral history. Ms. Clark is also President of the United States Oral History Association, and has served on the executive council of the International Oral History Association. As Vice President of the Oral History Association, she helped organize its 2001 meeting. That conference, Bearing Public Witness: Memories of Struggle and Resistance, attracted more than 350 presenters from around the world. Ms. Clark teaches a graduate-level course at Columbia University on the history, methodology, and applications of oral history. She directs the annual Columbia University Summer Institute on Oral History, which attracts faculty and fellows who gather from around the world for a two-week intensive seminar on particular themes and topics in oral history. She has lectured and delivered seminars at Columbia University's Teachers College, Barnard College, Sarah Lawrence College, the City University of New York, and many other colleges and universities. She has also lectured in Brazil and the Netherlands on topics related to oral history and memory.

Ms. Clark has consulted on the development of many oral-history projects in New York City, including programs for the New York City Board of Education, the City University of New York, the Audre Lorde Project, the Riverside Church, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, and the Urban Justice Center, as well as museums and settlement houses throughout the New York region. She has also consulted on programs for the Rockefeller Foundation that involve making grants to community artists who use oral history in their performances and exhibits. Ms. Clark has conducted a broad range of interviews for Columbia University on subjects ranging from women's history to media and journalism history, political history, philanthropy, and the history of psychoanalysis. Recently, as part of a larger project documenting the impact of American philanthropy in South Africa, she interviewed Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on his role in the struggle against apartheid. Ms. Clark enjoys recruiting oral historians at a young age and volunteers in elementary and middle schools, where she teaches oral history to students to enable them to learn history directly through their families and communities and to draw connections between their local neighborhoods and communities around the world.

Prior to her career at Columbia University, Ms. Clark worked at the New York Times History Project. She consulted on the international award-winning Africa On the Move, a documentary on the agricultural economy in Uganda, produced by the Hunger Project in New York City. Ms. Clark earned two masters degrees at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she focused on ecumenical and liberation theology. She was the recipient of an international fellowship from the Rotary Foundation in 1980-81, which supported a year of graduate study in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1997 Ms. Clark earned a Columbia University Award for her coauthorship, with Franklin Odo, of a grant to document the experiences of Japanese Americans on the East Coast during World War II.

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Recommended Reading
Ives, Edward D. The Tape Recorded Interview: A Manual for Fieldworkers in Folklore and Oral History. 2d ed. Knoxville: University of Tennesse Press, 1995.

Mercier, Laurie, and Madeline Buckendorf. "Using Oral History in Community Oral History Projects." In Oral History Association Pamphlet Series, no. 4. Carlisle, PA: Oral History Association, 1992.

Thompson, Paul. The Voice of the Past: Oral History. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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Technical Requirements
You will need to use a computer with Internet access to complete this course. We recommend the following minimum configurations:

Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, or NT
64 MB of RAM (128 recommended)
Monitor: 800x600 resolution recommended
Connection: Internet service and 56K modem minimum
Browser: Internet Explorer 4 or above (Internet Explorer 5 strongly recommended) or Netscape 4.7 or above
Sound Card (if you can hear audio you have a sound card)
Plug-ins: RealPlayer 7 or later; Flash Player 5 or later; Acrobat Reader 5 or later
(all plug-ins are free)

MAC OS 8.6 or higher
64 MB of RAM (128 recommended)
Monitor: 800x600 resolution recommended
Connection: Internet service and 56K modem minimum
Browser: Internet Explorer 5 or above or Netscape 4.7 or above
Sound Card (if you can hear audio you have a sound card)
Plug-ins: RealPlayer 7 or later; Flash Player 5 or later; Acrobat Reader 5 or later
(all plug-ins are free)

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