UW Libraries Blog

April 27, 2020

Listen and Learn: Exploring Oral Histories at UW Libraries for #preswk

UW Libraries

It’s Preservation Week 2020!

Honorary co-chair: Bestselling author, educator and cultural critic Roxane Gay will share her years of experience as a writer, storyteller and social commentator during Preservation Week.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Preservation Week®, a public awareness initiative that aims to promote preservation and conservation in communities with the help of libraries, institutions and museums. Preservation Week inspires actions to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archival materials. It also raises awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions play in providing ongoing education and outreach.

Here at UW Libraries, we’ve put together an itinerary for the week – fun, daily activities designed to encourage learning and exploration of oral history and preservation; there’s a little something for all ages and interests!   In addition, we’ve highlighted some links to oral histories within UW Libraries collections – personal favorites, timely historical accounts and more. Enjoy!

Weekly Itinerary:

  • #MotivationMonday: Start strong. Check out the Libraries’ Oral History collections online from Special Collections, Bothell,  and Tacoma in celebration of our theme “Preserving Oral History”, follow honorary chair Roxanne Gay and #preswk on Twitter, and register for the webinars below.
  • #TipTuesday: Attend a how-to-do Oral History Webinar at 11 a.m. from the experts at StoryCorps and learn how to conduct your own oral history, using the StoryCorps Connect tools as way to reach out to friends and family during social distancing.
  • #TGIF: Stretch goal–attend the 8 a.m. digital preservation webinar from the Library of Congress (LOC), but luckily it -and the four other Preservation Week webinars from LOC will be archived for later listening. Realistically,  do a little personal digital archiving on your email inbox and call it a week.

UW Libraries Featured Oral Histories

The University of Washington Libraries greatly recognizes the importance of oral histories as an important primary source for historical narratives. The following links represent just a fraction of the stories that live within our oral history collections. To explore more, check out the Libraries’ Oral History collections online from Special Collections, Bothell,  and Tacoma.

Remembering the 1918 flu pandemic – first-person accounts from Washington locals.  

The following interviews include conversations referring to the 1918 flu pandemic.

UW Tacoma Oral History: Founding Stories

UW Tacoma founding staff with one of the first graduates on the roof of Perkins Building, 1991. Courtesy of UW Tacoma

Founding Stories is a project to develop a new digital oral history collection comprising interviews about the founding of the UW Tacoma campus. The project has already created close to 50 hours of audio on oral histories related to campus history. Listen to Excerpt highlights on SoundCloud including a special audio story about the Black Student Union, and  interviews with Claudia Gorbman,professor emerita and Steve Smith on the unique undertaking of building an urban-serving university, education in Washington state and the South Sound and connections with the local community.

UW Libraries Special Collections: South Asian Oral History Project (SAOHP)

South Asian Oral History Project (SAOHP) represents one of the first attempts in the U.S. to record pan-South Asian immigrant experiences in the Pacific Northwest using the medium of oral history. This initiative not only has the goal of preserving the history of South Asian immigration to the region, but also of making these historical resources/material available to everyone. The collection, completed by UW South Asian Studies Librarian, Deepa Banerjee, has been featured in several prominent exhibits including an Ellis Island exhibit running through 2021 and an audio installation created in partnership with the History Channel and ESI Design called “The Peopling of America Center” for the Ellis Island National Immigration History Museum in New York.

UW Ethnomusicology Archives: Vi Hilbert Collection

The collections in our Ethnomusicology Archives also include oral histories that give us a unique understanding of culture, place and time through words and music. Vi Hilbert (1918-2008) was a member and noted elder of the Upper Skagit tribe. Her first language was Lushootseed, a Coast Salish language found in the Puget Sound region of western Washington state. Hilbert played a major role in the revitalization of the language and culture of the First People of the Pacific Northwest. She became known as a teacher, storyteller, publisher, and public speaker. For over 40 years she built and maintained a research archive of cultural materials.

Listen to the Hilbert collection here, and learn how it is being used by UW scholars in “The Language of the Land”, a profile of UW lecturer Tami Hohn (pictured right).

UW Bothell: Community Voices

Community Voices is a collection of oral histories and interviews conducted by – and with – University of Washington Bothell students, staff, faculty, and community members. Represented in the collection are histories of international students, students with disabilities, founders of UWave Radio, staff who maintain campus facilities, staff who work with students, and Bothell community members who experienced the downtown Bothell fire of 2016. These histories expand the breadth and depth of the recorded history of the University of Washington Bothell and the surrounding community.

Enjoy learning about our oral histories this week! For questions about any of our archives, just ask us!