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.

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