Columbia’s Oral History Research Office Hosts Summer Institute, June 11-22, 2007

NEW YORK, June 27, 2007 The Columbia University Oral History Research Office (OHRO) held its annual two-week international Summer Institute in Oral History from June 11 to June 22, 2007. The theme of this year’s Institute was “Telling the World: Oral History, Struggles for Justice and Human Rights Dialogues” and featured faculty and fellows from around the world.


“Oral historians can play a very significant role within human rights movements, and before and after Truth Commissions, through capturing the realities of human rights violations as they are experienced emotionally, physically, politically and historically,” said Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office. “As we discovered in this year’sInstitute, oral history can both measure the cost of suffering individually and document the long-term impact of atrocity globally.  The goal of “telling the world” in this way is to encourage corrective action.”

Presentation topics by Institute faculty included “The Fosse Ardeatine: History, Memory and Meaning in of a Nazi Massacre in Rome” by oral historian Alessandro Portelli; “Documenting and Disseminating Oral History Stories,” by award-winning audio documentarian Steve Rowland; and “Facing Death in Cambodia: Documenting the Consequences of Genocide, ” a lecture and workshop on the challenges of documenting genocide, by author Peter Maguire.  Carlos Ivan Degregori of Peru and Graeme Simpson of South Africa offered presentations on the legacies of truth commissions in their countries, reflecting in the intersections of justice and dialogue.

Recent projects by fellows in this year’s Institute included Elana Haviv’s “Telling History; Understanding the Past to Create the Future,” a project that teaches high school students about universal human rights through the lens of recent and current world events in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur; “Exploring the Narrative of Truth: A Feminist Critique of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” by Rina Kashyap; and, as part of the Dominican Oral History Project, a series of oral histories of Dominican immigrants who have moved to the New York area, focusing on the immigrants’ educational and labor histories by Nelson Reynoso and Sharon Utakis of Bronx Community College. The institute also included human rights fellows from Cambodia and Liberia.

The Institute provided instruction in interviewing, designing community history projects, integrating oral history sources into academic research and writing, and developing human rights oral history programs. Fellows had opportunities to learn digital recording techniques in audio recording, and to explore the uses of oral testimony in audio documentaries.

Faculty for the 2007 Summer Institute included: Paige Arthur, Deputy Director of Research for the International Center for Transitional Justice; Peter Bearman, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) and the Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences, professor of Sociology, and co-director of the Health & Society Scholars Program at Columbia University; Louis Bickford, Director of Networks and Capacity Building Unit for the International Center for Transitional Justice; Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office at Columbia; Ann Cvetkovich, professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin; Carlos Ivan Degregori, former Director of the Colombia Program of the ICTJ and former Commissioner of the Peru Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Ronald J. Grele, director emeritus of Columbia’s Oral History Research Office; Peter Maguire author and one of America's leading authorities on the Nuremberg trials and the laws of war; J. Paul Martin, Executive Director of Center for the Study of Human Rights, and Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Program, both at Columbia University and an Adjunct Professor at Teachers College; Vasuki Nesiah, Senior Associate with the International Center for Transitional Justice and head of  the ICTJ’s programs on Ghana, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Gender; Roxsana Patel, South African scholar and activist with a background in Clinical, Child and Family Psychology; Alessandro Portelli, pioneering oral historian and professor of American Literature at the University of Rome; Caitlin Reiger, Senior Associate and Head of the Cambodia program for the International Center for Transitional Justice; Steve Rowland, president and founder of CultureWorks, Ltd., a non-profit documentary production company; Linda Shopes, historian with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Graeme Simpson, County Programs Unit Director for the International Center for Transitional Justice and Adjunct Professor at Columbia; and Amy Starecheski, interviewer and educator for the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University, and co-director of this year’s Summer Institute.

The 2007 Summer Institute was co-sponsored by the Oral History Research Office and the International Center for Transition Justice, an international human rights/tribunals advocacy organization.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Library’s web site at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

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 17,000 hours of taped memoirs, and 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 additional information about the 2006 Summer Institute or for general information about the Oral History Research Office, please see:

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