Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oral History on the Road

A couple of weeks ago Christian Lopez and I traveled down to Sumter County to record oral histories with local community members for the First Person Project. This trip grew from a collaboration with the UGA Archway Partnership, a program designed to expand the reach of the university and help address economic develop needs and community priorities by implanting UGA "Archway Professionals" in locations around the state.

We worked with Sumter County Archway Professional Maggie Potter and Americus Downtown Development Director Angie Singletary on this trip. From our perspective, we were thrilled to be able to record oral histories from south Georgia--an area that we'd love to have better represented in our collections. At the same time, we were able to share our resources with the folks down in Sumter County. We are providing the Archway Partnership and the Americus Development Authority with copies of the recordings that they can re-purpose for tourism and promotion down the line.

All in all, it was a very successful collecting trip. We recorded eight excellent interviews with citizens from across Sumter County. We also made a pilgrimage to one of the "holy sites" of Georgia politics--checking in at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains and visiting the Carter Boyhood Farm nearby. And not only did we get to spend the night in the beautifully renovated Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus, but during the day we were lucky enough to be allowed to film in the Lee Council House, an amazing historic property owned by the Sumter Historic Trust that we were told was built as a wedding gift for the bride of a local businessman.

We'll be adding all eight of the oral histories from this trip to the First Person Project finding aid soon, but in the meantime, here are a couple of excerpts from our interviews with Willie Green Cutts and Charles Crisp.


Post by Callie Holmes, Oral History and Media Archivist, Russell Library

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Visitor Feedback

Since installing our Now and Then: 1973 exhibit in the gallery last spring we have had thousands of responses to the questions we posed in our Reflection Gallery. We use this space to ask visitors questions connected with the exhibit currently on display. The following post is the first in a series created by our student worker Sarah Hughes, reflecting on the visitor responses to our questions.

Question:Would a political scandal like Watergate have the same impact today?
We asked this question of visitors to our 1973 exhibit. Answers were of course varied, but the majority seemed to agree that the answer is no. Some said the lack of impact would be due to apathy among citizens, while others claimed that Americans are simply too desensitized when it comes to political scandal. One person went so far as to blame Watergate for this effect, saying “…the presidency has less prestige after Watergate.” Another said that “[people would] rather follow celebrities’ lives” than worry about political scandals. 

On the other side, some visitors suggested that modern technology allows people to be more up to date on news, and therefore a political scandal would have more of an impact today. Another visitor said the impact would be equivalent today due to political polarization, citing Republicans’ eagerness to blame President Obama for everything. A few of our visitors drew interesting parallels between the Watergate scandal and more recent political events, like President Clinton’s affair, the 2011 attack on Benghazi, and the spying scandal involving the National Security Administration. One guest asserted “No. But the NSA should face the same scrutiny!” 

What do you think? Are these more recent events on par with the Watergate scandal, and if so, should they/will they be received the same way by the American public? Has technology desensitized people to everyday scandals or has it caused them to be more informed? We’ll let you be the judge. For more information about Watergate and the other happenings of 1973, visit our exhibit on the second floor of the Russell Special Collections building on display through December 2013.