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Oral History is "The People's History"

Oral traditions are ancient, and oral history is an ideal methodology for preserving the stories of people and place. The goal is simply to share, record, and preserve the extraordinary moments of everyday life. "Oral sources tell us not just what people did, but what they wanted to do, what they believed they were doing, and what they now think they did" (Alessandro Portelli).

 

Scholarship on teaching and learning contends that whether using existing archives as classroom texts or recording new oral histories, students gain a greater understanding of how the self and culture intersect (Pollock; Mills et al; Mason Bolick et al), overcome stereotypes (Culhane and Frantz), improve students’ technical literacies (Kuhn and McLellan), and provide students with a means for contesting and (re)informing historical narratives (Bischoff and Moore; Eick), including those related to technology (Frisch). In time, oral history as an applied social sciences method has come to be valued across many disciplines: Cultural and social geography (Riley and Harvey, Tedlock), literature (Tobias Hecht and Padma Viswanathan), visual arts (Sandino and Partington, Kwan), dance (Debenham), poetry (Glesne, Richardson), and theatre (Epstein, Paget). Interested patrons can find oral histories online from scientists who created the mass spectrometer, nurses and dieticians in San Francisco hospitals who were the first to work with HIV and aids patients, and line technicians who installed telephone poles in the rural south.

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Current / Past Oral History Projects

Blue Ridge Pride LGBTQIA+ Archive

Contrary to stereotypes that persist, Southern Appalachia is home to a wide range of LGBTQ+ trailblazers including Holly Boswell (born 1950 in D.C.) and Yvonne Cook-Riley (born 1941 in Asheville) who created the symbol for transgender identity in 1991 from Asheville, NC. LGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable to being misrepresented, minimized, and/or erased within American history given the continued prevalence of stereotype thinking, abomination language, and stigma that exists to varying degrees across all demographics. According to the American Library Association, 40% of banned books are challenged simply because they mention LGBTQ+ identity at a time when LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide and be successful than their cisgender, heterosexual peers (Trevor Project). 

 

Blue Ridge Pride LGBTQIA+ Archive is an oral history and physical artifacts repository that launched in 2019 in partnership with oral history scholar Dr. Amanda Wray and the University of NC Asheville’s Special Collections. We aim to document a richer, fuller, more inclusive history of LGBTQ+ identities and make these widely accessible to a range of audiences through our website and other educational media. 

West Asheville / New Belgium Brewery Place-Based Oral History

Karen Loughmiller of West Asheville Library compiled a list of interviewees who could speak knowledgeably about the periods of transition West Asheville had experienced over the past fifty years. Students spent multiple hours with interview participants (most in their 80s) in order to produce thoughtful profile pieces representing the diverse histories of West Asheville. This project was developed in collaboration with Asheville Design Center and New Belgium Brewery. 

Want to Preserve Your History?

Oral History Packages include multiple interview sessions (guided questioning), audio/video recordings, and typed transcriptions. From your oral history, we can create a book, film, or other media (let's brainstorm).

Reach Out for More Information

Connect with you soon. Thank you!

--Amanda

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