Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Updates in Oral History

The success of the Russell Library’s oral history program, especially the Reflections on Georgia Politics series, has afforded our Media and Oral History team opportunities to expand the program’s scope. An ongoing discussion we have centers around the question, “Where do we go from here?” One goal we're working towards is building partnerships with other oral history programs. We want to create collaborations that will support oral history initiatives and help existing programs (like ours) to grow. As part of this new initiative, we (the Russell Library’s Media and Oral History unit) have teamed up with the Heritage Room of the Athens Regional Library System (ARLS) to preserve their growing collection of local Athens oral histories.

ARLS’s oral history project began ten years ago with interviews focusing on local school desegregation. The project fell by the wayside for a time, but Heritage Room librarian Laura Carter says that the project has expanded in the last few years, and now has a broader vision -- to document “what folks can tell us about Athens in the 20th century.” So far, the collection consists of 24 oral histories recorded over the last two years and includes interviews with Rev. Archibald Killian, Pastor Tom Lang, Milton Leathers, Agnes Parker, Maxine Easom and Charles Carter, among others. Two real gems in this collection are oral histories that describe historic African American neighborhoods in Athens. In “A Visit to Chalky Level: Yesterday and Today” and “A Trip to the Bottom,” researchers will get a glimpse of this rich past, guided by the recollections of Rev. Charles Knox.

This ARLS project promises to be a rich collection of local African-American oral histories, including discussions of Athens during the civil rights era. Transcripts will be available at both the Heritage Room and at the Russell Library, and the collection will be housed in both institutions. The Russell Library is proud to be a part of this partnership and we'll keep you updated on new developments here on the blog!

Post by Christian Lopez, Oral History Coordinator, Russell Library

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