The recent meeting of the national Oral History Association in Atlanta, GA – I must admit – was very interesting. I don’t know an exact count of participants, but it seems that there is a steady attendance for the last few years, somewhere around 400-500 participants. From what I heard and saw, the Wednesday pre-conference technical assistance workshops were well attended (digital preservation, digital audio, oral history basics, digital video and oral history and the law). The opening program was a short view of a on the WPA Federal Writers’ Project – Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story - I have been waiting to see, as well as a panel of participants discussing the topic and the documentary – including Stetson Kennedy, a Florida WPA writer and folklorist I always enjoy.
After this great start of engaging panels and technical workshops, the OHA conference itself , Thursday – Sunday, seemed to follow the lead. There was a good mixture between reports on new model projects (ie: Audio Histories and Tours of Change, Hope,and Adaptation), discussions on theoretical issues (Theoretical and Practical Challenges in Oral History, Ethical Dilemmas Undercover) and practical applications for oral history in a variety of settings (Oral History in the 21st Century Classroom, Oral History in the Reclamation of Cultural Space). There were Plenary Sessions every day, the Thursday plenary was exceptionally interesting as it dealt with oral history projects in post- Katrina Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, 5 years after the hurricane.
There were many Kentucky projects represented, as well as Kentuckians in attendance. I was pleased to see our oral historians and oral history project leaders represent their state as well as lend their support – once again – on a national stage.
There were so many things I participated in that were interesting, inspiring and just useful as far as oral history for Kentucky in the context of the global discipline. I am so grateful I was able to attend. Please let me know if you have questions about specific panels or presenters, I am happy to tell you more about what I know or connect you with those on a national level that were presenting.
Also extremely exciting is a new book by the revered oral historian, Allesandro Portelli, THEY SAY IN HARLAN COUNTY: An Oral History. Portelli is known in the oral history world for ground breaking oral history examinations and since the early 1970s has been conducting oral histories in Harlan County, KY about the people, the culture and the industry. This new publication is a culmination of this research and is getting great reviews. Although Portelli is from and lives in Italy, he often returns to Kentucky to revisit his friends and work. The original interviews are archived at the Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky.
Please, check out the online program to see more about what was discussed during the 2010 Oral History Association meeting.
Next year is in Denver the second week of October. The topic will be focused on “Memories of Conflict and Disaster: Oral History and the Politics of Truth, Trauma, and Reconciliation.” I will be sharing the call for proposals in the coming weeks. Please consider sharing our state’s oral history participation with the West. As for me, you will see me there – early and late – since I have been asked to join the conference program committee.
- Sarah Milligan