Oral History Research Office Hosts Annual Summer Institute Program
NEW YORK, June 2, 2010 –

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office (OHRO) is sponsoring its annual two-week Summer Institute in Oral History from June 7 to 18, 2010, featuring acclaimed oral history leaders and thinkers from around the world. The theme of the 2010 Institute is Oral History from the Ground Up: Space, Place and Memory.


This year's Institute will examine the meaning that space, place and memory hold in producing individual, social, cultural and political narratives. Faculty and Fellows will come from a diverse range of countries, including Canada, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Fellows are studying a broad array of subjects, from public health and cartographies of obesity, and the history and preservation of a historically African American community in Maryland, to grassroots activism in Chile, the urbanization of arts space around the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, and a history from below approach to documenting the Kashmiri protest movement.

Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office, said, "The fact that we were overwhelmed by applications this year tells us how important themes of place, space and memory are to both the construction of historical resources and their interpretation. We are so pleased to bring together faculty and fellows from around the world to explore the role of space and place in developing community and activist projects, and creating archives of cultural memory."

There will be two public lectures during the Summer Institute: Alessandro Portelli, professor of American Literature at the University of Rome, will give a lecture entitled America and the Underground: Origins, History and Identity in a Periphery of Rome on Monday, June 14 at 7:00pm. Setha Low, professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, and Anthropology and the director of the Public Space Research Group at the City University of New York Graduate Center, will give a lecture entitled Claiming Space for an Engaged Anthropology on Thursday, June 17 at 1:30pm. Both lectures will be take place at 754 Schermerhorn Extension.

From a theoretical perspective, the core faculty of the Institute will focus on oral history as a space and place-producing practice, and on the uses of oral history in documenting, commemorating and memorializing historical events, cultural memories and activist projects. Workshops will include training for interviewing and developing archives of cultural memory and activism, as well as practical workshops in the development of archives, the use of digital technology to record and preserve interviews, and editing for publication.

Mary Marshall Clark will explore the outcomes of the September 11, 2001 Narrative and Memory Project in relation to the interpretation and commemoration of the September 11, 2001 events in the New York urban area. Alessandro Portelli will present on his forthcoming book on Harlan County, Kentucky - They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History - based on more than 30 years of fieldwork. Setha Low will present a workshop and a public lecture on engaged anthropology, spatial inequality, and social exclusion, based on fieldwork in New York City and Costa Rica. Institute co-director and doctoral student Amy Starecheski will lead interpretative field trips to area museums and urban sites where oral history is being used in innovative ways to make significant interventions in public memory. Peter Bearman, director of the Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences, the Cole Professor of Social Science, and co-director of the Health & Society Scholars Program at Columbia University, and Tammy Smith, Research Scholar in the Columbia University Sociology Department, will present on the possible uses of social sciences for interdisciplinary oral history methods. Liz Sevchenko, director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and Pamela Graham, director of the Columbia University Area Studies/Global Resources Library Program, will join in on the issue of documenting public memories of catastrophe, from fieldwork to interpretation. Elizabeth Grefrath and Lance Thurner of OHRO will explore the importance of detention and imprisonment as a space of silencing voices, focusing on current projects on the death penalty and Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Carwil James, doctoral student in anthropology at the City University of New York, will present on the experience and impact of space-claiming protests in Bolivia.

Core faculty will also include OHRO director emeritus Ronald J. Grele; Corie Trancho-Robie, OHRO assistant director; Linda Shopes, editor and former president of the Oral History Association; and Laura Starecheski, an award-winning audio producer.

For more information please call the Oral History Research Office at 212-851-5807 or visit the website at: /content/libraryweb/indiv/oral/events.html

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest organized 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. The program is also a center for teaching and research, offering opportunities for students, visiting scholars and fellows.  For more information, please visit: /content/libraryweb/indiv/oral.html

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.  

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