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Showing posts with the label oral history

Listen to Veterans: the Student, Citizen, Soldier Oral History Project

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Veterans of the armed services aren't visible in our public and political culture because they aren't statistically significant.  That's what Tom Landers, an Army veteran and a graduate student in History at Salem State University, reminds us in an oral history with historian Andrew Darien for an important oral history project that launches for Veterans Day.

Support for veterans' benefits and accolades for their service spike during campaign season, but once the spotlights fade, political leaders shirk their promises.  U.S. veterans fade back into the shadows of American society.  We rarely see or hear them speak for themselves about war, politics, or the short and long term effects and implications of their military service.  They become a convenient soundbyte.  In many cases, their history gets used for others' gain.

Over the past five years, Salem State University has grown its enrollment of veterans, thanks in large part to the Veteran Assistants Veteran Integr…

LIve on Grundy CountyTV with my Students

This was a really fun TV appearance with three of my best and most delightful students. There is so much I could say here about our Highlander efforts and about how hard these students work, but you should just watch the segment:

Since when were the Gardaí on the other side of the Northern Ireland conflict?

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Today, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience announced its grant awards for 2016.



One grant was awarded to an organization called  Diversity Challenges, whose mission is "to assist culturally specific groups in integrating community relations principles and considerations within all aspects of their work."


According to the Sites of Conscience the grant will fund “Voices from the Vault,” a project that collects stories from former police officers in two police forces on either side of the (Northern Ireland) conflict. The work is groundbreaking in the sense that it is uncommon for state agents in any dispute to talk about their experiences."

Ummmm, what?

As a public historian, I tend to dismiss academics who get petty about semantics.  They always seem to have an air of the kid in the front of the room just dying to get the answer right. (The kid waving their hand in the air so hard you think they might pee themselves.)


As an historian of Northern Ireland, thou…

Night Will Fall: A Meditation on Representation

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At ceremonies and pilgrimages, through newspaper accounts and private reflection, people around the world observed the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz last week.  It has become a touchstone date, a moment for remembrance, a call to witness. 

Perhaps the ghosts of the Holocaust were with us as well.  In a locked room at Auschwitz in which an the Italian television crew and Jewish leaders found themselves trapped. Amidst silence and candlelight at vigils across the globe.  And in André Singers' film "Night Will Fall," which aired around the world on January 27th.


Night Will Fall is a film about witnessing.  About survival amidst death. About the ways to tell a story, the impact of the visual, the politics of evidence.  About the power of solid historical research to deepen our understanding of both the past and the horizons and the limits of our humanity.  It is a difficult and necessary film.


There's been much ado about the documentary, and for good reas…

"Humbling Moments" at the Oral History Association Meeting

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While I wait in the airport for my husband to finish running a half marathon and then drag himself to come get me,  it's a good time to write a quick post about the 2014 Oral History Association Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. 


It was my first OHA meeting.  Seasoned oral historians and experts on reflection and analysis of the interview process Stacey Zembrzycki and Anna Sheftel invited me to participate in a roundtable conversation on humbling moments because of my insistence on discussing failure in community collaborations more openly last spring at the 2014 National Council on Public History annual meeting

The panel also included the trailblazing feminist oral historian Sherna Berger Gluck and Janis Thiessen, a thoughtful and critical historian of Canadian labor, business and religion.  We had really good attendance and a remarkably rich and flowing conversation, given the fact that there were about forty people in the room.

Return to Sender: Lessons from Boston College' s Belfast Project

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Vanishing and Secret Apps: approximating ephemerality?

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What we say on the record has changed radically over just the past five years or so.  I think it has also devalued the first-person narrative.  Basic economics, right, 'cause there's an awful lot of it out there.    So, of course, I am interested in how the way we communicate is changing.  There was an interesting article by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe this morning about our reacquaintance with the value of privacy:

"You remember privacy, right? We were quite fond of it until the Internet came along. Then we started handing our personal data to anybody who promised us free e-mail service."   Bray highlights apps like Wickr, SnapChat and Telegram, where ostensibly, the content of your conversations is deleted and erased.  Like a real time conversation, it is ephemeral.  

On Memory and Methodology

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Academic historians tend to have a favorite question for me.  I was recently asked it and I didn't know how to respond. I wish I could say that it is irrelevant to my interests and concerns. However, it actually does matter quite a bit, though it matters differently for me, I think, than it does in the way the askers intend.

 The question is always a very polite and well-intentioned attempt to ask me if I missed the memo that tells historians that memories are untrustworthy as sources of historical information.  "You do know that you aren't supposed to trust memories to be descriptive of actual events, right? Right? OK.  As long as you know."  



"Memory is a poet, not an historian."


Historians tend to criticize the use of remembrance as a source for interpreting the past.  It is OK to discuss people's remembrances and recollections of the past only as long as one does not suggest that those recollections relate in any meaningful way to what actually happen…