The Evolution of an Oral History Project

By Jones-Randall, Kate | Computers in Libraries, March 1992 | Go to article overview

The Evolution of an Oral History Project


Jones-Randall, Kate, Computers in Libraries


INMAGIC and SearchMAGIC help an oral history dream come true.

The Oral History Project of the Town of Weston, Massachusetts, was developed under the aegis of the Weston Public Library with the cooperation of the Weston Historical Society. Its goal was to interview individuals whose family roots reached far back into Weston's history as well as those who had acquired a special knowledge of Weston and whose accounts might shed light on the town's character and development.

In pursuing this project, a steering committee composed of members of the Historical Society, the staff of the Weston Public Library, and other local volunteers was formed in 1978. The committee was assisted by Jeannette Cheek, whose experience with oral history began when she was the director of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College in the late 1960s.

The first task was "trying to get good people to do the interviewing, looking for individual men and women who had had wide experiences with life in Weston," according to Cheek. The committee proceeded slowly and with care on this, finding two or three key persons to agree, and then taking their suggestions for others who might add strength to the project. No one who was approached refused, and the ultimate group of twelve to fifteen remained relatively constant for the following years.

Patterns Emerge

As the first interviews were completed, transcribed, and edited, it was clear that they contained lively portraits of people and that they were full of interesting information. But were they history?

When more than thirty had been completed, a second reading convinced the committee that something had emerged beyond chronologies of events and individual lives, that patterns of the town's development had indeed become clear. Accounts of the same thing often varied in viewpoint and detail, but they reinforced each other in total substance.

Weston had been a farming community for 200 years when the twentieth century began. It continued to be one even as individuals from Boston and environs began to filter in, first as summer visitors, boarders, perhaps, in establishments like the Old Drabbington Inn on North Avenue. Many of these people grew to love the Weston countryside and soon sought to buy farms of their own.

By the 1920s real estate trusts were being formed by some of the larger estate owners in Weston and smaller pieces of land became available. What had started slowly in the 1920s and 30s, when the population still stood at under 2,500, turned into a flood after the end of World War II. Doctors, lawyers, financiers, professors, architects, businessmen, teachers -- the usual middle class mix -- all were among the newcomers. Farmers, needless to say, were noticeably absent.

Public Access

After more than ten years of capturing vital local history from the mouths of those who made it, a second goal was outlined -- that of making the histories readily available to the townspeople of Weston. Alice Douglas, the director of the Weston Public Library, wanted to broaden public awareness not only of the present community, but of how it developed, and of what it was becoming.

To meet this goal the historical society provided interviewers, transcribers, and funding at critical junctures while the public library provided a place to house the collection and project continuity. Three key elements assuring continuity included the organizational structure and governance of the library, the dedication of project volunteers and library staff, and reliable funding.

LSCA Support

The second part of the dream, access, was initially assisted by a federal Library Services and Construction Act grant. Seizing an opportunity to build on the usefulness of microcomputer software (INMAGIC) that had already been acquired through a similar award to index the Weston Town Crier,(1) Douglas requested a grant to index the Oral History Project. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Evolution of an Oral History Project
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.