The use and development of oral history programs has become a popular way for archives to document events and communities, either as a supplement to traditional records or as discrete collections. In particular, projects that focus on involving groups traditionally underrepresented within the archival record are becoming increasingly common in both large institutions and small community archives. This article presents three case studies of oral history projects dedicated to forging ties in the community and increasing diversity in their collections. In these case studies, the authors discuss the inceptions of their projects and the ups and downs of developing community oral history programs, including building trust, engaging community members, participation of volunteers and students, consideration of alternative models such as story circles, establishment of processes and procedures that can be replicated and sustained, lessons learned and future steps. The authors also reflect on the impact of unexpected roadblocks, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic. By understanding the ways these elements shape oral history programs, archivists can find new ways to frame those programs around the communities in question, creating more inclusive collections and better serving both institution and community.
As of November 2020, Beth McDonald is an archivist with the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries. Prior to this, McDonald was the Music Archivist at California State University Dominguez Hills. She received her MLIS in Archival Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a BFA in Theatre from Auburn University. A performing arts archivist with a background in the entertainment industry, she specializes in the preservation and care of theatrical, film, and music archives. Heather Lanctot is the Archives and Records Center Coordinator for Yolo County. She holds both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Music History and Musicology from the University of Oregon (UO) and a Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University (SJSU). Heather is currently serving her second year as a member-at-large on the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Public Library Archives and Special Collections Section (PLASC). Natalia Fernández is an associate professor and the Curator of the Oregon Multicultural Archives (OMA) and the OSU Queer Archives (OSQA) at the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC). Fernández holds an M.A. in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona (U of A). She graduated from the U of A Knowledge River Program, a program that focuses on community-based librarianship and partnerships with traditionally underserved communities. As of June 2020, Fernández is the SCARC Interim Director.
McDonald, Beth; Lanctot, Heather; and Fernandez, Natalia M.
"Little Big Stories: Case Studies in Diversifying the Archival Record through Community Oral Histories,"
Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 12
, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/westernarchives/vol12/iss1/4