One-Day Oral History Training Workshops with OHMA by Oral History MA Columbia University

2018-01-20 All day

Jan. 20: One-Day Oral History Training Workshops with OHMA
by Oral History MA Columbia University

Join us for an intensive day of workshops with OHMA faculty and alumni!

Registration is now open for our ONE-DAY ORAL HISTORY TRAINING WORKSHOPS on Saturday, January 20, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Hamilton Hall [Campus map.] Room assignments vary by workshop.

Registration: $30 – 100 per workshop, sliding scale

For our oral history workshops, please pay what you can. We suggest $30 for students, recent graduates, or others who are financially constrained, while we suggest that professionals and those with more resources should pay more.

All profits from these events go towards our annual merit scholarship for an incoming OHMA student.

Schedule at a Glance: Click on the links below to register or review full course descriptions and faculty bios.


Oral History and Research, with Mary Marshall Clark: 306 Hamilton
Oral History 101, with Amy Starecheski: 309 Hamilton
Introduction to Oral History for Writers, with Gerry Albarelli: 313 Hamilton
Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, with Fanny Garcia: 315 Hamilton
Introduction to Community-Based Oral History Projects, with Benji de la Piedra: 316 Hamilton

Oral History and Human Rights Work, with Mary Marshall Clark: 306 Hamilton
Archiving Oral Histories, with Kimberly Springer: 309 Hamilton
Oral Historian as Guide: Finding Your Voice in Narratives Based on Oral Histories, Nyssa Chow: 313 Hamilton
Oral History and Interactive Storytelling, with Whitney Dow: 315 Hamilton
Self-care Strategies for Oral Historians, with Liz Strong: 316 Hamilton
Prospective Students: OHMA will be offering an application fee waiver for all attendees of our 2018 One-Day Oral History Training Workshops! Please email us at once you’ve submitted your application so that we can send the waiver to Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

We will also be hosting our annual Spring Open House that very same week on the evening of Thursday, January 18, 2018! If you are interested in applying to OHMA and would like to meet with our directors or sit in on a class while you’re in town for either event, please write us to schedule your visit.

Sponsors: OHMA’s One-Day Oral History Training Workshops are part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR) and the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA).

Support from the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) is provided for programming that embodies late Professor Paul Lazarsfeld’s commitment to improving methodological approaches that address concerns of vital cultural and social significance.

For more information, please email Jamie Beckenstein, Administrative Coordinator for OHMA & INCITE, at


Morning Workshops, 9:30AM-12:30PM

Oral History and Research, Mary Marshall Clark

Oral history is a form of biographical, social, economic, political and cultural research – contributing to an understanding of the many ways in which the past influences our thinking about the present and the future. This workshop will focus on ways in which oral history as a form of interdisciplinary research can contribute new knowledge and the development of unique primary sources. Practical aspects of the workshop will include thinking about how to design oral history research projects, and how to read and analyze narrative sources.

Mary Marshall Clark is the director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR). Mary Marshall is also the co-founder and co-director of Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts degree program. Mary Marshall has been involved in the oral history movement since 1991, and was president of the Oral History Association in 2001-2002. She was a founding member of the International Oral History Association.

Mary Marshall teaches and writes on issues of memory, the mass media, trauma, and ethics in oral history. She was the co-principal investigator, with Peter Bearman, of the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, and directed related projects on the aftermath of September 11th in New York City. Mary Marshall’s current work focuses on the global impact of U.S. torture and detention policies, focusing on Guantánamo. Mary Marshall is an editor of After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 11, 2001 and the Years that Followed, published by The New Press in September 2011.

Oral History 101, for Educators, Amy Starecheski

What is oral history, and what is it good for? In a storytelling-obsessed era, what does oral history offer to researchers, artists, students, organizers, journalists, and teachers? In this Oral History 101 workshop, participants will be introduced to the basics of oral history practice — planning a project and conducting an interview – and will explore how tools from the oral historian’s toolkit can be useful to their practice.

Amy Starecheski is a cultural anthropologist and oral historian whose research focuses on property and history in cities. She co-directs the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University. She consults and lectures widely on oral history education and methods, and is co-author of the Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide. Amy has a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center. Her book, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, came out in 2016 with the University of Chicago Press. In 2016 she won the SAPIENS-Allegra “Will the Next Margaret Mead Please Stand Up?” prize for public anthropology writing.

Introduction to Oral History for Writers, Gerry Albarelli

Oral history reminds us that people are natural storytellers. The oral history interview also gives writers unusual access—to the past; to stories they may not have heard otherwise; to important stories in danger of being lost forever; to the liveliness of speech; to small worlds within our larger world. The oral history interview also poses a particular—and particularly interesting—challenge to writers: What do we do with multiple perspectives on a single event? How do we confront the mystery of what, if anything, actually happened?

Participants will be introduced to interviewing techniques that tend to lead to rich, anecdotal testimony. This workshop will be structured around two questions: How does one earn the right to hear the important story? Having heard the story, how does a writer earn the right to re-tell it?

Gerry Albarelli is author of Teacha! Stories from a Yeshiva (Glad Day Books, 2001), chronicling his experience as a non-Jew teaching English as a second language to Yiddish-speaking Hasidic boys at a yeshiva in Brooklyn. He has published essays, poems and stories in numerous anthologies and reviews, includingAcoma, The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories, Global City Review, The Breast, and Fairleigh Dickinson Review. Albarelli is on the faculty of the Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts program.

Introduction to Community-Based Oral History Projects, Benji de la Piedra

This workshop will introduce participants to the outlook and strategies necessary for building and maintaining a successful community-based oral history project. Participants will be asked to articulate their goals and vision (however preliminary!) for a community-based oral history project. They will learn how to refine that vision, design their project’s infrastructure and workflow, and implement that design with flexibility over time, within the constraints of available resources. The workshop will include an introductory training in oral history interviewing technique that emphasizes the interviewee’s relationship to a community. Participants will be introduced to ethical and legal considerations of oral history interviews, and will receive a primer on best practices for archiving and processing interviews in a community-based context. Students will be encouraged to apply lessons imparted not only by the instructor, but also those learned from their own experience.

Benji de la Piedra (OHMA 2014) is an oral historian and writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is documenting the childhood and African American community life of Washington Post journalist Herbert H. Denton Jr. In 2016, Benji was a Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellow at Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. After graduating from OHMA, Benji received the program’s Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize for his elaboration of democratic pluralism and the dialogical encounter in oral history and the writings of Ralph Ellison. Benji recently worked as Oral History Trainer and Volunteer Coordinator for the DC Oral History Collaborative in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and has consulted for community-based oral history projects in New York City and Hot Springs, North Carolina. Along with Mario Alvarez (OHMA 2015), Benji is Co-Founder, Co-Director, and Co-Lead Interviewer of the Columbia Life Histories Project.

Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, Fanny García

In a recent interview Groundswell member Alisa del Tufo described oral history as a process that is “reflective, fluid, and improvisational” and transforms both the interviewee and the interviewer. In today’s political climate, this dialogic exchange can be a powerful tool to combat negative rhetoric about marginalized communities. It can also help further the social movements that actively work towards justice and equity. In this introductory oral history workshop, individuals will engage in participatory exercises and case study reflections to conduct a critical examination of the practical, theoretical, and ethical implications of applied oral history work. Furthermore, we’ll discuss projects that have successfully engaged oral history as a method for contributing to social change, and equip participants with a basic framework and set of tools to support their own efforts to advance social justice through their oral history work.

Fanny Julissa García is an oral historian contributing work to Central American Studies. She is currently writing a literary oral history manuscript using the interviews of Central American refugee women jailed in detention centers at the U.S./Mexico border. She has worked for more than 15 years as a social justice advocate to combat the public health and socioeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS on low income communities, worked closely with organizations fighting for the end of family detention, and supported survivors of sexual violence. She has written plays about the impact of HIV on Latinas and their families, plus short stories and essays about the Central American diaspora. She serves as the Communications Coordinator for Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change, a network of oral historians, activists, cultural workers, community organizers and documentary artists that use oral history to further movement building and transformative social change. She is also co-founder of Social Exchange Institute, a media and education company that uses multi-media tools to produce work that promotes social justice and equity. Recently, she joined the administrative support staff at the New-York Historical Society. Fanny graduated from the Oral History Master of Arts program from Columbia University where she received the Judge Jack B. Weinstein Scholarship Award for Oral History.

Oral Historian as Guide: Finding Your Voice in Narratives Based on Oral Histories, Nyssa Chow

One of the challenges when crafting narratives based on oral histories is deciding what role your voice will play when telling the story of another. How visible will you be in the re-telling? What relationship will your voice have to the material? In this session we will be looking at different ways the oral historian’s voice can act as guide in nonfiction narratives based on oral histories. We will look at examples from written, multimedia, and audio storytelling, and think through how the oral historian as storyteller can make these choices when creating narratives based on life histories.

Nyssa Chow is the current Teaching Fellow at the Columbia University Oral History Master’s Program. She is a writer, new media storyteller and educator. She is a graduate of OHMA, and of Columbia University’s MFA program. Her most recent project Still.Life. – Intersecting Histories won the Columbia University Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. Nyssa is a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Women in Film and Television Fellowship, the Academy of Motion Pictures Foundation Award, and is a recipient of the Sloan Foundation Grant. Her recent Still.Life exhibition in her home country, Trinidad, was a narrative installation of soundscapes and light built from oral histories.

Archiving Oral Histories, Kimberly Springer

Archives are alive! Less dramatically: the archive is not the end of your oral history’s lifespan. Through a few simple, but meticulous processes of organizing and carefully describing your analog and born-digital materials you can ensure that communities of activists, researchers and artists can access the words and thoughts of your interviewees well into the future. We’ll briefly explore the history of archives, archival best practices and ethical considerations of archiving your oral histories. By the end of the workshop, you’ll have a better idea of the function of archives for preserving memory, but also as spaces advocating active use of oral histories. Participants will also come away with a checklist for deciding where is the best place for people to access your oral histories and simple templates for collecting archival-quality metadata.

Kimberly Springer is Curator for Oral History for the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. She holds a master’s of information science, specializing in archives, preservation and social computing from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. She obtained her doctorate from the Women’s Studies Program at Emory University in Atlanta. She has worked in public media and the government sector for National Public Radio, Michigan Radio, St. Louis Public Radio, the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the U.S. State Department. Her research and publication areas are born-digital materials, artists’ studio archives, social media, social movements, and television studies as they intersect with race, gender and sexuality. Kimberly’s publications include Living for the Revolution, Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 (Duke University Press, 2005), Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African-American Women’s Contemporary Activism (New York University Press, 1999), Stories of Oprah: the Oprahfication of American Culture (University of Mississippi Press, 2010) and articles in several journals and edited volumes.

Oral History and Human Rights Work, Mary Marshall Clark

Oral history is increasingly used in human rights work to engage in historical dialogues, advocacy and the gathering of testimony in societies engaged in conflict and post-conflict situations. Oral history methodologies can be used by human rights advocates in multiple ways: a) to discover the real, daily life needs of vulnerable people, b) to advocate for social and political change based on that real knowledge; c) to develop ways of engaging, through in-depth interviews, across lines of social and cultural difference; and d), to construct opportunities for critical dialogues based on models of social change that emerge out of oral history stories about the past, the present and visions of the future.

In this workshop we will discuss models of oral historical dialogues in human rights work, breaking down the components of successful transformational practice. Participants are encouraged to bring their own experiences in human rights and oral history work to the workshop.

Oral History and Interactive Storytelling, Whitney Dow

Oral history is a dialogical, co-constructed process. The interviews that we record are usually complicated, messy and non-linear. How can oral historians use the tools of interactive storytelling to maintain this dialogical quality and structural complexity when we curate our interviews for a public audience? This workshop will explore the ways in which interactive storytelling diverges from linear storytelling in the ways that it creates meaning and understanding for an audience. It will examine what it means to manage authorship in nonlinear and interactive narratives, and look at the relationship between author intent and audience participation. It will explore a variety of interactive techniques and formats including, branched storytelling, Installations gamification, internally v. externally dialogical story constructs, virtual reality, and user generated content. Participants will be given a group of online projects to review prior to the workshop which will be explored as case studies during the class.

Whitney Dow is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and interactive storyteller who has been creating projects focused on race and identity for almost two decades. In addition to directing and producing numerous feature films and shorts, he is the creator or the Whiteness Project, a story-based interactive media and research project he is producing in collaboration with PBS and Columbia University’s INCITE, and serves as the Story Director for Veterans Coming Home, a digital initiative by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which focuses on the American Military Civilian Divide. His work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Peabody and DuPont Awards as well as many film festival honors. Dow teaches visual storytelling in the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University

Self-care Strategies for Oral Historians, Liz H. Strong

Oral history interviewing can be a deeply immersive exchange that is both rewarding and harrowing. Oral historians are impacted emotionally and physically by the stories we hear. Working with narrators who have survived or perpetrated acts of violence exposes interviewers to vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout, and all manner of stresses that may go unacknowledged. Reported experiences range from lack of focus to nightmares, and from physical tension to prolonged illness. Through cultivating self-awareness and support structures, we can learn to care for ourselves and others, and to design resilient oral history projects in spite of the risks.

This workshop is an introduction to a collected folk wisdom about managing the emotional demands of oral history interviewing. Drawing on interviews with oral historians in the field, and existing published works, Liz Strong has compiled some tools and advice. The goal is to host a constructive conversation about how to recognize the impact of oral history work on interviewers and to introduce valuable resources. Participants are encouraged to share examples from their own experiences for discussion and reflection with the group.

Liz H. Strong is a freelance oral historian based in New York City. She has worked with the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Preservation Archive Project, the Washington State Department of Commerce, and many others. Strong earned an MA in Oral History from Columbia University in 2015, and a BA in Narrative Arts from Oberlin College in 2009.

Related upcoming events

  • 2019-01-19 - 2019-01-21 All day

    This workshop is designed for educators who want to bring oral history into their classrooms and learning spaces. We’ll begin with a rigorous introduction to oral history theory, methods and practice before reviewing existing curricula as a jumping off place to design our own curricula/projects.

    We’ll think about how oral history’s best practices dovetail with a range of learning objectives, seizing upon the field’s potential to support active listening, ethical documentary practice along with considerations of: primary sources, myth, memory, the archive as a future history, silence, talking across difference, problem solving, shared authority, collaborative analysis and historiography. Participants will be guided through a design process with a chance to workshop their emergent ideas with the group.

    Note: The example curricula will be directly relevant for learners age 5 and up, though we welcome early childhood educators, as well. Please contact us with any questions about the appropriate fit of this workshop or other workshops.

    Instructor: Suzanne Snider
    Location: 1 North Front Street, Hudson, New York
    Tuition: Sliding Scale ($475 to $700. See below for more details)*
    We are accepting scholarship applications from local Hudson area educators (K-12) for three tuition-free spaces

  • 2019-02-02 - 2019-02-07 All day

    Saturday, February 2, 2019 9:30 AM
    Thursday, February 7, 2019 3:00 PM

    Project Design is a dynamic phase of oral history practice, giving oral historians a chance to discipline their thinking, address ethical challenges, identify sites for potential collaboration, assess their resources, define “success,” and brainstorm potential future uses beyond the archive.

    Project Design, which we can think of as our projects’ “superego,” stands in contrast to the wild and woolly nature of narrative, itself--presenting with coherence, rules and potential problems. Working on our Project Designs at the front end can be enlivening, inspiring and revelatory when developed in chorus with peers and collaborators, as “problems” become our guides, and part of our projects’ ultimate resolution.

    This workshop will encompass a discussion of outreach methods, budget, training/support, equipment, ethical problems, preservation plan, project focus, motives, sites for collaboration. and nontraditional interview design such as the “oral history chain letter” and the storycircle.

    Participants will have the option of signing up for a 30-minute project consultation.

    We’ll be joined by guest instructors Alex Kelly (New York Public Library) and Liza Zapol (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution).

    This workshop, which begins with a review oral history theory, methods and practice, is designed for the newcomer and more experienced oral historian, well-suited for those mid-project or those dreaming of a project, ahead. No prior oral history training is assumed.

    Instructors: Suzanne Snider with Alex Kelly and Liza Zapol
    Location: Solaris, Hudson, New York
    Tuition: $725

    Tuition includes an OHSS e-reader, a project consult, workbook, tote bag and two group meals.

  • 2019-02-08 All day

    The Southern Oral History Program (SOHP), housed at the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, invites artists, composers, audio/radio producers, writers, and community members to use our interviews to create new and thought-provoking short-form audio documentaries, sound art, sonic experiments, and aural landscapes.

    Producers are encouraged to think creatively about format, structure, and style. Since 1973, the SOHP has recorded interviews with southerners from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents, which are available digitally through the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

    For our 2019 Sonic South audio competition, In Sickness & In Health, we’re highlighting SOHP’s major research project, Stories to Save Lives. Producers will choose from interviews with Southerners about health, illness, and medical care in their own lives, in their families and in their communities. Your creativity can help us illuminate the power of these stories.

    The top five finalists will have their work shared at a live listening room in April 2019 at the CURRENT Theater in Chapel Hill, NC. Two prizes will be awarded: the Sonic South prize, and the Audience Choice award.

    There are three rules for this competition.

    Final work must:

    Be no longer than three minutes in length
    Incorporate themes of health, illness, or medical care in the American South
    Use at least two different voices from this curated collection of 15 SOHP interviews.
    Entries are due on Friday, February 8, 2019 by midnight EST.

    For more information about the competition, the rules, and how to submit, please visit the Sonic South website.

  • 2019-03-28 - 2019-03-30 All day

    International conference "Oral History in Action", Poland, Cracow, March 28-30, 2019
    by Marta Kurkowska-Budzan

    Call for Papers

    Polish Oral History Association (PTHM), established in 2009 in Krakow, brings together people and the circles that use oral history in their work in various areas of academic, cultural or social life. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the POHA, together with the Institute of History of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the Wrocław “Remembrance and Future” Centre, we would like to invite you to take part in the international conference Oral History in Action, that will take place in Krakow on 28-30 March 2019.

    The history of oral history started from practise of first recorded interviews. Therefore, oral history, like no other branch of the humanities, is intrinsically linked to social, civic or interpersonal engagement of an oral historian and oral history itself. Because of that we would like to pose a question whether oral history do (or should do) change social reality: for good or for bad, intentionally or accidentally? Reflection about that engagement, its characteristics, problems and consequences, especially in countries of Central and Eastern Europe, is located in the centre of the conference’s topic. Profiting from the transdisciplinary character of oral history, we hope that our meeting in Krakow will create a space for confrontation and discussion about different approaches to oral history presented by the academia, museums and other cultural institutions, or by NGOs. We are convinced that this multitude character of oral history in historiography, sociology, anthropology, psychology etc., as well as in our contemporary (digital) culture and public life, is both the biggest chance and main challenge for oral historians and their discipline.

    We are seeking for papers reflecting oral history as an activity and considering its consequences, touching at least one of the following topics:

    · oral history in contemporary social sciences and humanities: innovative projects and approaches, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary character as an epistemological challenge;

    · practical and conceptual challenges of doing oral history in minority groups (e.g. discriminated, advanced aged etc.)

    · oral history as a public history: local, national and international level;

    · oral history and politics, or political dimension of practising and promoting oral history;

    · oral history as a tool of intentional social change vs. researcher’s neutrality: epistemological and ethical dilemmas;

    · oral history as a formof social and communal activity;

    · oral history as a form of therapy;

    · place of oral history in theory and practise of contemporary museums and NGOs;

    · interviewees in the education projects: aims, forms and limits of engagement;

    · new media and oral history: usage and abusage of memories in the Internet;

    · legal problems of doing oral history

    To apply with a paper please send an abstract in English (approx. 300 words) along with your presentation title and your short bio to:

    Deadline for submissions: 30 November 2018

    The list of the chosen participants will be announced on 20 December 2018.

    There is no fee for taking part in the conference. Chosen texts will be published in peer-reviewed journal “Wrocław Yearbook of Oral History”(

    Polish Oral History Association
    Institute of History, Jagiellonian University in Krakow
    The “Remembrance and Future” Centre in Wrocław
    Fundacja “Dobra Wola”

    The honorary committee:
    Zbigniew Gluza (The Karta Center in Warsaw)
    Professor Kaja Kaźmierska (Institute of Sociology, University of Łódź)
    Dr hab. Grażyna Kubica-Heller (Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University in Krakow)
    Dr Wojciech Kucharski (The “Remembrance and Future” Centre in Wroclaw)
    Tomasz Pietrasiewicz (The “Grodzka Gate ‐ NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin)

    Organising committee members:
    Katarzyna Bock-Matuszyk, Alina Doboszewska, Jakub Gałęziowski, Marcin Jarząbek, Dobrochna Kałwa, Wiktoria Kudela-Świątek, Agata Stolarz, Karolina Żłobecka

  • 2019-04-26 - 2019-04-27 All day

    Texas Oral History Association

    Call for Papers

    Eighth Annual Conference, April 26-27, 2019
    St. Edward’s University | Austin, Texas

    The Texas Oral History Association (TOHA), founded in 1983, promotes the use and good practices of oral history research through a variety of programs and publications, including the journal Sound Historian. Comprised of individuals representing diverse interests and disciplines, the professional organization will host its seventh annual conference on April 26-27th, 2019, on the campus of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

    St. Edward’s University is a private, liberal arts institution that has been in existence since 1885. This meeting is generously sponsored by their Journalism & Digital Media program and the Department of History.

    Scholars, educators, students, history enthusiasts, folklorists, family historians, and others are encouraged to submit proposals for papers or sessions to be considered for the program. Topics should include clear evidence of oral history research or provide new insights on the methodology.

    Both complete session and individual paper proposals are welcome. Individual presentations must not exceed twenty minutes, and the session format will include opening remarks by a chair, followed by three papers, or by two papers and concluding remarks from a commentator. Proposals should include the names, affiliations, and contact information of participants, the titles of sessions and papers, and a brief description of the topics to be covered. Please submit your proposals via email by January 31st, 2019.

    Direct all submittals and inquiries to our offices at . Thank you and we look forward to your submissions!

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