May 12, 2010
By Jessica Pritchard
This week we continue with our recent miniseries on online oral history projects. Again, be sure to peruse parts one, two, three, four, and five and check back with AHA Today as we continue to highlight these projects.
The Battle of Britain
The Imperial War Museum in Great Britain has been conducting interviews for the past 25 years from veterans who participated in the Battle of Britain in 1940. These 120 interviews include not only stories from the pilots, but also from the men and women fighting on land; however, the oral histories available online come solely from the pilots.
In many ways, the site reads like a story with the interviews spliced in to add more detail. For example, the story begins: “The Spitfire has become one of the most enduring images of the Battle of Britain. However, the Hurricane played an equally important role in the air battles of 1940.” You can then listen to or read stories from the veterans who add their personal perspective, such as Geoffrey Page, who served with 56 squadron and experienced flying both aircraft and Roland Beamont, who served with 87 squadron and managed to shoot down a Messerschmitt 109 over Dorset in August 1940.
The Danville Civil Rights Movement
Danville, Virginia, just five miles from the North Carolina border, has deeply rooted memories from the civil rights movement, starting with Charles Kenneth Coleman, who ran for Danville City Council shortly after World War II ended. This project—Mapping Local Knowledge, Danville, Virginia 1945-1975—contains ten interviews with Danville residents who recount memories and “wounds from that turbulent time [that] have not healed.” Emma Edmunds conducted the interviews, and Tom Cogill took the photographs that accompany each oral history and that help tell the story.
Oral History Project of the Senate Historical Office
These oral histories offer up close and personal insight into the stories from the United States Senate, from Senate officers, to chiefs of staff, to reporters, to the senators themselves. The site explains, “Senate historians interview those individuals who can offer a unique perspective on Senate history but may otherwise be missed by biographers, historians, and other scholars.” For instance, Senate staff, assistants, clerks, and others.
Each of these interviews contains the subject’s personal background and education, as well as their work before entering into the Senate. Listen to selected audio clips or read various interview transcripts.
Oral Histories of the American South
"You don’t have to be famous for your life to be history." From the Center for Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill comes 500 interviews that span across interests, which you can explore through one of the following six categories:
- Civil Rights
- Environmental Transformations
- Piedmont Industrialization
- Southern Politics
- Southern Women
The Women in Chemistry Oral History Project
Iowa State University has long been an advocate for getting women involved in engineering and science, dating back to 1872 when the university first opened and enrolled four women in domestic sciences. The Women in Chemistry Oral History Project seeks to share stories from women who have pursued scientific careers, partially to preserve history and partially to inspire other young women thinking of doing the same.
Tanya Zanish-Belcher, curator for the Women in Chemistry Oral History Project, explains in her interview with Rob Dillard, “I believe that we need to document the woman as a person in addition to being a scientist.” She adds that often people divide the scientific from the personal, so part of her goal with this project it to bring more well roundedness to the stories from these women.
The site offers transcripts and selected audio clips, as well as additional resources for learning chemistry. You may also want to check out Today’s Seeds for Tomorrow’s Harvest, a virtual exhibit that explores the impact of women on the field of nutrition.