Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office Receives $100,000 from The NY Times Neediest Fund for September 11, 2001 Response and Recovery Oral History Project


June 12, 2002 - The Columbia University Oral History Research Office (OHRO) was awarded $100,000 from the New York Times Neediest Fund to build upon its September 11th archives, which include four-hundred oral history interviews conducted for its September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project over the past eight months.

This new initiative, the September 11th Response and Recovery Oral History Project, will focus on the response to September 11th and the efforts of those who have contributed to the recovery. The money will be used to conduct 40 new interviews with leaders in the fields of mental health, law, employment, education and philanthropy, who mobilized quickly following the catastrophe to provide both short-term and long-term services in the aftermath. An additional set of interviews will be conducted in family and community settings with people directly traumatized by proximity to the catastrophe or loss of loved ones.

OHRO will also work with youth and adolescents in schools and after-school programs, using oral history to help define and interpret the experience of September 11th and its aftermath, and develop an interviewer's training program focusing on how to document trauma and publish the results.

Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office and founder of the September 11th Response and Recovery Oral History Project said about the grant, "These funds are extraordinarily inspirational. For they will allow us to explore the responses of New York City's most qualified professionals to the catastrophe, while simultaneously documenting the legacy of trauma and catastrophic loss on society as a whole. Further, through a close alliance with experts in trauma, education and the arts, we hope that those we interview will be able to use oral history as part of the long-term recovery process."

Jack Rosenthal, President of the New York Times Company Foundation said about the documentary goals of OHRO's project, "There are many facets to recovery and one of the underestimated ones is coming to grips socially with an event of this magnitude." He continued, "We have gone out of our way to promote recovery from Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome in professional ways and it seems to us that giving ourselves an honest record of what we did and felt can contribute importantly to that goal."

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office, in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy [ISERP] at Columbia University, created The September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, a major oral history project on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath in the days following the events.

More than 400 audiotaped interviews have been conducted with a wide variety of people who were directly and indirectly affected by the catastrophe, including those who were discriminated against in the aftermath. Many of the interviews were conducted within six to eight weeks of the attacks, in order to document the uniqueness and diversity of experiences of and responses to the catastrophe as close to the events as possible. The project is a longitudinal life history project; interviewees will be interviewed three times over three years.

Initial funding for the longitudinal oral history project was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Columbia University. The early success of the project was also made possible by a concentrated effort of volunteer oral historians, historians, sociologists, journalists and student interviewers. The September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project is co-directed by Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office, and Peter Bearman, chair of the Sociology Department and director of ISERP. Rob Smith, of the Barnard College Sociology Department, former Rockefeller Fellow with the Oral History Research Office, is also a project investigator.

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest university-based oral history program open to the public in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains nearly 8,000 taped memoirs, and nearly 1,000,000 pages of transcript. Over 2,000 scholars a year consult the interviews from the oral history collection archived at Columbia University. http://www.columbia.edu//cu/lweb/indiv/oral/index.html

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written: 06/11/02 KRS