Oral History Workshop

Workshop Title: Accessing Oral Histories

Workshop Description:

Oral historian Alessandro Portelli states that “[oral] sources are oral sources… The tone and volume range and the rhythm of popular speech carry implicit meaning and social connotations which are not reproducible in writing.”[1] In managing oral history programs, archivists often face the challenge of providing researchers with access to the oral source (actual audio/video document) instead of only to its transcript. The audio-visual aspect of an oral history collection becomes an increasingly pressing priority as issues arise in preserving analog media. The continual advancement of tools for digitizing collections is giving way to new user accessibility, and subsequently, archivists are finding exciting potential for renewed scholarly and public interest in oral histories.

Join the Brooklyn Historical Society Oral History Program Coordinator Sady Sullivan on Thursday, November 19th, for a workshop exploring the frontier of digital access to oral histories. Discussion topics will include cataloging tools (Past Perfect, OMEKA, and more), digitization of collections (born-digital and digitized oral histories), types of online access (databases, podcasts), and fantasy future audio-searching software.


The Brooklyn Historical Society oral history collection began in 1973 with the Puerto Rican Oral History Project: 69 interviews with Brooklyn residents who migrated from Puerto Rico via steamship between 1917 and 1940. Today, the BHS oral history collection contains interviews with over 300 narrators, and soon, all of these interviews will be accessible to listeners in the Othmer Library and also available in a selection online.

BHS Oral History Highlights: http://brooklynhistory.org/blog/tag/oral-history-highlights/

Find samples from Brooklyn Historical Society’s Oral History Collection on iTunes.

Instructor: Sady Sullivan

Sady Sullivan is coordinator of the Oral History Program at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Since 2006, she has led five oral history projects and conducted life history interviews with over 150 people, as well as trained and overseen the work of other interviewers helping to build BHS’s oral history collection. In addition, she manages the digitization of BHS’s legacy oral histories – 11 projects dating back to 1973 and encompassing over 200 interviews. BHS is working to make these collections available for listening through a searchable database in the Othmer Library. Sady brings ten years of story-collecting experience to her role as oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Her interview technique demonstrates a merging of social science, journalistic, and Buddhist deep listening approaches, respectfully drawing out memories to be shared.

Date: Thursday, November 19, 2009

Time: 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Location: Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201


By subway: 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall, A,C,F to Jay St/Borough Hall, or M,R to Court St.

By bus: North – South: B 38, B52, B25, B26, B41 to Montague/Court Street
East – West: B 67, B65 to Jay Street
From Manhattan: B51 City Hall to Court St. /Cadman Plaza WEEKDAY SERVICE ONLY

Light refreshments will be provided.

Workshop Fee and Registration: ART-NY Members / Non-members $25 / $30

Registration Deadline: Friday, October 16, 2009.

We are offering a package deal for non-members that include NYART membership and admission to the workshop for $50. Please note that membership cycles run from July to June. Please be sure to attach a membership form which is attached to this email and also available on our website: http://www.nycarchivists.org/membershipForm.html


Checks made payable to: Archivists Round Table Metropolitan New York


Checks and registration mailed to: Bonnie Marie Sauer, National Archives at New York
201 Varick Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014-4811


[1] “What Makes Oral History Different?”, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1991)

Peter J. Wosh
Director, Archives/Public History Program
History Department
New York University
53 Washington Square South
New York NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-8601
Fax: (212) 995-4017


Peter Wosh

About Peter Wosh

Professor Wosh directs the program in Archives and Public History at NYU. Professor Wosh’s research has focused primarily on American religion, American institutional cultures, and archival management issues. His background includes work as an archivist in a variety of academic and nonprofit institutions, including: Director of Archives and Library Services, American Bible Society (1989-1994); Archivist/Records Manager, American Bible Society (1984-1989); University Archivist, Seton Hall University (1978-1984). He is the author of Privacy and Confidentiality Perspectives: Archivists and Archival Records, with Menzi Behrnd-Klodt (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005); Covenant House: Journey of a Faith-Based Charity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994); The Diocesan Journal of Michael Augustine Corrigan, Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, 1872-1880 (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1987); as well as articles in various archival, historical, and library journals. Professor Wosh’s current research involves editing the published writings of Waldo Gifford Leland, a pioneering archival theoretician, for the Archival Classics series published by the Society of American Archivists.

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