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Story at the Center

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004203/00001

Material Information

Title: Story at the Center An Oral History Website on Catoctin Quaker Camp
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Anderson, David Brooke
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Oral History
Website
Quaker Summer Camp
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis takes the form of a website. The site, which can be found at www.cqcoralhistory.org, or in the source files on the accompanying CD presents a model for exhibiting oral history materials in a modernized, user-friendly format. The project documents the memories of different members of the Catoctin Quaker Camp community from the past fifty years. Almost 200 short audio stories were edited from twenty-three oral history interviews. Half of these stories appear on the "stories" page and are organized by narrator. The other half appear on an interactive map of the camp and are associated with different sites on the map. This accompanying document traces the development of oral history, pointing at the limitations posed by the placement of the methodology into the discipline of history. It identifies several reasons why the website would not qualify as academic oral history by the Oral History Association�s current standards, and makes suggestions for liberating the methodology from the analytical necessities of the social sciences. Through combining elements of digital storytelling and oral history, this thesis proposes a new model for an engaging, far-reaching, and public end-product for academic oral history projects.
Statement of Responsibility: by David Brooke Anderson
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Supplements: Accompanying materials: CD attached with the source files for student's website
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Clark, Maribeth

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 A5
System ID: NCFE004203:00001

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004203/00001

Material Information

Title: Story at the Center An Oral History Website on Catoctin Quaker Camp
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Anderson, David Brooke
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Oral History
Website
Quaker Summer Camp
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis takes the form of a website. The site, which can be found at www.cqcoralhistory.org, or in the source files on the accompanying CD presents a model for exhibiting oral history materials in a modernized, user-friendly format. The project documents the memories of different members of the Catoctin Quaker Camp community from the past fifty years. Almost 200 short audio stories were edited from twenty-three oral history interviews. Half of these stories appear on the "stories" page and are organized by narrator. The other half appear on an interactive map of the camp and are associated with different sites on the map. This accompanying document traces the development of oral history, pointing at the limitations posed by the placement of the methodology into the discipline of history. It identifies several reasons why the website would not qualify as academic oral history by the Oral History Association�s current standards, and makes suggestions for liberating the methodology from the analytical necessities of the social sciences. Through combining elements of digital storytelling and oral history, this thesis proposes a new model for an engaging, far-reaching, and public end-product for academic oral history projects.
Statement of Responsibility: by David Brooke Anderson
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Supplements: Accompanying materials: CD attached with the source files for student's website
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Clark, Maribeth

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 A5
System ID: NCFE004203:00001


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STORY AT THE CENTER: AN ORAL HISTORY WEBSITE ON CATOCTIN QUAKER CAMP BY DAVID BROOKE ANDERSON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the Sponsorship of Dr. Maribeth Clark Sarasota, Florida May, 2010

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Table of Contents Introduction Page 1 Background: History of Oral Hi story Page 3 Case Study: Catoctin Quaker Camp Page 23 Process Page 37 Conclusion: Technology, the Man behind the Cu rtain Page 41 Works Cited Page 45 ii

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STORY AT THE CENTER: AN ORAL HISTORY WEBSITE ON CATOCTIN QUAKER CAMP David B. Anderson New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTACT This thesis takes the form of a website. The site, which can be found at www.cqcoralhistory.org or in the source files on the accompanying CD presents a model for exhibiting oral hi story materials in a modernized, user-friendly format. The project documents the memories of different members of the Catoctin Quaker Camp community from the past fifty years. Almost 200 short audio stories were edited from twenty-three oral history interviews. Half of these st ories appear on the stories page and are organized by narrator. The other half appear on an interactive map of the camp and are associated with different sites on the ma p. This accompanying document traces the development of oral history, pointing at th e limitations posed by the placement of the methodology into the discipline of history. It identifies several reasons why the website would not qualify as academic oral history by the Oral History Associations current standards, and makes sugges tions for liberating the met hodology from the analytical necessities of the social sciences. Through co mbining elements of digital storytelling and oral history, this thesis proposes a new m odel for an engaging, far-reaching, and public end-product for academic oral history projects. ___________________________ Dr. Maribeth Clark Division of Humanities iii

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Introduction: An Oral History Website Are you near a computer? Good. Go to www.cqcoralhistory.org That is where you will find my thesis: an oral history on Ca toctin Quaker Camp. I entreat you to spend some time exploring the site. You will find that story is at the cente r of it. This document is intended to provide a brief description of the mission, the stories, and the project that led to the sites current state. Most oral history websites are created to supplement or increase access to already existing oral history interviews. My project reverses this trend; I collected oral history interviews in order to create the website. Perh aps this is a sign of the times, that my life is so entangled with the internet, I simply think in these terms. Rather than joining the masses of contentproducers who ceaselessly add to what author Andrew Keen in his book The Cult of the Amateur calls a digital forest of mediocrity, I am using the internet for the advantages it lends to documentary and historical preservation (Keen 4). In other words, I have chosen the internet for its value as an alternative to traditional scholarly forms of text. The web has precipitated a paradigm shif t in the way a grow ing population thinks and processes information. There has been an ascendency of information that is succinct and summarized, bold and graphi c. And many people have come to expect it this way. In contrast, A quick search for or al history projects on the web reveals that the oral history world has either deliberately remained traditio nal, or has not adapted to the contemporary internet searchers attenti on span. For example, the Vietnam Centers Oral History Project website is massive, with hundreds of interviews arranged alphabetically. Each interview link contains an abstract, a link to the audio, and a transc ription (The Vietnam Center and Archive). For a scholar inte rested in writing a book on reticence or 1

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conversational shifts to limit discussion in post-combat war narratives, this would be a valuable resource. However, for a casual vis itor looking for a glimpse at what it was like to be in Vietnam, this website would be rather cumbersome, if not overwhelming. Few people have the time to listen th rough a three-hour interview only to find several minutes worth of engaging material. In todays world, where radio pieces are expected to be three-to-five minutes in leng th, most collected oral history material goes unheard. As someone who believes strongly in the value of personal experience and the preservation thereof, I view this as a significant loss. How can oral history projects, which require valuable time and energy to collect oral testimony, bring their material to a wider audience? The most common method ha s been to write books that contain long quoted segments from selected interviews. However, the books rarely reach an audience beyond the oral history commun ity. In contrast, my website packages oral history material as an attractive, user-friendly fo rmat, employing the intern et for the broadest reach possible. In order to do so, I abbreviated one-a nd-two hour interviews into just a few minutes. In some cases, I moved a narrators words around to edit for narrative flow or context. I extracted the stories and left everyt hing else out. I created a small archive, but declined to subject the memories to critical inquiry or analysis. As I researched the theory, method, and application of oral hi story, however, I frequently came across features or requirements that my website coul d not fulfill. Thus, as I was creating my oral history project, I was learning that it might not qualify as academic oral history. I eventually resolved this dissonance by looking ou tside the field of history. On the internet 2

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I discovered a movement describe d as digital storytelling.1 Upon finding many projects that were similar to mine, I came to real ize that my project fits between digital storytelling and oral history. To better understand this middle ground my project occupies, one must take a closer look at oral history. Background: History of Oral History Historical interviewing has b een happening since history was first recorded, yet it was only called oral history when Allan Ne vins established the Columbia University Oral History Project in 1948. Nevins Columbia University program fulfilled his dream articulated in his The Gateway to History (1938) for an organization which [would make] a systematic attempt to obtain from the lips and papers of Americans who had lived significant lives, a fulle r record of their accomplishm ents (Hirsch 141). Note the qualifier in significant lives: The oral hi story projects of the late 1940s through the early 1960s were mostly interested in in terviewing the prominent to acquire more empirical data in the same spirit as conventiona l historical studies outside of oral history. Nevins thought of history as a branch of literature and its purpose as first a creator of nations, and after that, their inspirer (Hirsch 146). This rather liberating conception was undermined by the fact that his oral histories were intended to supplement the written record. As oral hi story vied for acceptance among the community of academic historians, the noti on of history as literature was indicative of the need for a more careful definition. Debates over the role of oral histor y in the larger historical record quickly moved into the valu e and validity of oral testimony. 1 To see some examples of Digital Storytelling, visit www.interactivenarratives.org 3

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These debates continued during the late 1960s as oral history in creasingly became a tool for recording the experi ences of racial minorities, the working class, women, and any person whose life could help represent a given social ex perience. Studs Terkel, an icon among oral historians whose books such as Working (1974) documented the lives of everyday Americans, liked to call it histo ry from the bottom up (Frisch 73). This democratizing mission of oral history posed a challenge to traditiona l notions of history as exemplified in a quote by Terkel in a 1973 in terview: Fact is not always truthIf its their truth, its got to be my truth (Gre le 14). Although not immedi ately accepted into the historical canon, these projects helped oral history reach its potential for publishing the stories of the previously historically insignificant lives. Oral history is distin ct from history in that it allows the historical actors to speak for themselves, lending new insights into choices people made in the past and allowing historians to create a more nuanced, multivocal understand ing of historical change. Because projects often involve less-prominen t figures, oral history also provides new voices to historical events, sometimes cont ributing folk histories to more dominant narratives. Oral history has the ability to show what the fact s and figures of history meant to the individual life. Furthermore, the framew ork of the oral histor y interview allows for a more equitable relationship between researcher and the objects of study. Historian Michael Frisch calls the resulting collaborati on a shared authority, providing agency to the narratorsomething often lacking in so cial research (Ritchie 104). With the postmodern death of the objective observer interview data became valued for its intersubjectivity and the wi ndows it gave into the personal experience of the political (Ryan 29). Because of these radicalizing benefits oral history grew rapidly in popularity. 4

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By the 1980s the freewheeling style that characterized the early forms of oral history entered a stage of in trospection. The important book, Envelopes of Sound which collected essays from the leading oral historians during the 30th anniversary of Nevins first oral history project, is concerned with providing stru cture for a movement greatly lacking it. For example, Ronald Grele noted in his essay titled Movement Without Aim: Methodological and Theoretical Problems in Oral History that although the importance of oral history is self-evide nt, no history department...would grant a doctorate to one of its students in return for the submission of a set of thoroughly documented and wellconducted oral histories (Grele 128). This a ttitude is exemplified by Terkels claim that his oral history work is not history, but memory, a search not for fact, but the truth behind the fact (Grele 129). Oral testimony wa s thus valued for the human truths it lent to the facts and figures of traditional history. Despite its rapidly expanding presence in th e historical recor d, oral history was not valued as something that could stand alone As Grele put it, oral history was widely considered an ancillary t echnique of historical study (Grele 127). Professional historians were distrustful of the validity of evidence produced by oral testimony, citing the vagaries of memory, and the impossibility of an objective interview relationship. The dialectical process created between the interv iewer and the interviewee (Frischs shared authority) raised issues of de tachment. It is impossible for the oral historian to remain outside of the situation, to rema in objective. Subjectiv ity is revealed even in the questions that are asked. According to Grele, the cri ticism of oral history as se condary and subjective fell into three types: in terviewing, research standards fo r preparation, and questions of 5

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historical methodology. For the fi rst two, he calls for better preparation of the historian and higher standards for interview technique as established by the academic community. The third criticism, regard ing questions of historical methodology, elicited thick, theoretical discussion. The main issue is th at oral history cons tantly deals with forgetfulness, lies, silences, and distor tions. Eye witness ac counts are famously unreliable. Narrators who are dissatisfied w ith their present conditi on tend to have rosy reminisces of the past, narrating, what is from an academic perspective, nostalgic drivel. Oral historians expressed a need to legitimize their craft, as they were attempting to create a respected academic venture. For example, Linda Shopes addresses the concern over nostalgia rather callously : So many people want to do oral histories in wellintentioned but extremely nave ways: to get in teresting stories, to get the anecdotes, to get the colorful stories, to get the cute things People dont want to c onfront the fact that history is not a happy little story of days gone by (Ritc hie 15). Significantly, these stories that Shopes berates are more in line with what I ha ve produced for my website. However, since its founding in 1967, the Or al History Association (OHA) has held multiple conferences and symposiums in order to refine and define the craft as a worthy endeavor, including the discrediting of such happy little stories. The discussions have maintained that oral historians are mo re than simply collectors of story. Consequently, it seems oral history is be st thought of as practice-based research. For example, most of the recent essays and re views of oral history are patently academic, treating oral history material as both source and product of social memory. The interview becomes a multi-faceted recor d. Scholars look at reflections and silences, what is discussed, what is avoided, or how events are remembered, in order to indicate 6

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nameable phenomena. They speak of notions like: Cultural templates, being the imaginative structures which shape and articu late memory and act also as a cognitive shorthand for a set of social values, pr escriptions for appropriate behavior, and membership of a community (Chamberlain 182). The job of the academic oral historian (according to Grele) is to read the interviews s ymptomatically in order to discover hidden levels of discourse, insights and oversights, and answers to questions never asked. He stresses the importance of discovering the problematic of the interview, and delves into issues of hege mony and other such larg e ideas (Grele 138). The oral historian is charged with the duty to study the difference between the various ways in which history is reconstructed, how myth becomes histor y, how history becomes myth, and how each is turned into ideology. In sum, it seems the role of the oral historian is both practitioner and researcher, studying life documents with the purpose of contributing new interpretations to the understanding of history. This is an unfortunate, fairly destruc tive tendency. The prescriptions that have since evolved from the gatherings of the Oral History Association ha ve stripped the oral history product of much of its potential by requiri ng a critical analysis of the visceral, emotional potential of the story. Jos Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy articula tes the effect these recent developments have had on oral history: The ongoing institutionalization of oral hi story has led to a crucial dilemma for the problematic of modern knowledge: what has become of modern oral history? Does oral history belong to academics, who so much insist on theorizing, or to participants in given historical processes, whose explanations rest on memory and in fashioning individual and group identity? (Meihy 7). 7

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These two connected arenas, memory and iden tity, could be viewed as the essential contents and objectives of a certain type of politicized oral history. However, as has been well-argued in the past several decades, memory is quite distinct from history. Are those who narrate their identity thr ough stories objects of study, or social actors? Academic oral historians have been unable to reach consensus on how to address these issues because it has yet to be agreed upon where oral history fits among the various disciplines. In this document, I would like to offer an alternative origin of modern oral history, beginning not with Ne vins at Columbia, but with Joe Gould of Greenwich Village, whose mission seems to be more exem plary of the recent popu lar uses of oral history as a site of memory and identity. Joe Gould was a member of one of the ol dest families in Massachusetts and a graduate of Harvard. Instead of becoming a su rgeon like his father and grandfather, he became an eccentric, homeless panhandler, dedicating his entire existence to writing a book. Gould caught the attention of New Yorker writer, Joseph Mitchell, in 1942 not because of his bohemianism, but because of the book he was writing. He called it An Oral History sometimes adding of Our Time. It consisted of talk he had heard and had considered meaningful and had taken down, either verbatim or summarized (Mitchell 39). Gould believed th e talk might have great hidden historical significance. It might have portents in it a kind of wr iting on the wall before the kingdom falls (Mitchell 40). He scribbled these notes into composition books, filling hundreds of them, claiming that, upon completion, it would be a dozen times longer than the Bible. The manuscript was never published, and only sm all sections have survived, but Joseph Mitchells profile of him in the New Yorker brought Gould consid erable fame and many 8

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admirers. Goulds mission to put down th e informal history of the shirt-sleeved multitudewhat they had to say about their jobs, love affairs, vittles, sprees, scrapes, and sorrows captured the imaginations of the public (Ritchie 22). The fact that nothing came of Joe G oulds lifes work other than the New Yorker article is certainly disap pointing, but the usefulness of his story is found in the documentarian impulse behind his mission. G ould has been credited by historians at Columbia University for originating the term oral history, using it a decade before it was coined by Allan Nevins (Mitchell Book Jacket). But through his peculiar undertaking, he could also be credited for popularizing the recording of the everyday story, not for journalistic or social research purposes, but for posterity. What Gould called bushwa, gab, palaver, hogwash, flapdoodle, a nd malarkey might be what we call urban folklore today (Mitchell 13). Gould himself claimed he suffered from a delusion of grandeur as he dedicated himself to captu ring a place and time, st riving for a complete oral historical record to be captured in a single tome. While professional oral historians today would never make such a claim, they nevertheless strive for as complete a record as possible for the benefit of others (Oral History Evaluation Guidelines). Because of Goulds commitment to preservi ng the stories of his time for posterity (and his incidental use of the term oral history) I think of the field as beginning with him. Thus a brief summary of the developm ent of oral history might go as follows: Joseph Gould begins documenting the thoughts a nd words of the people he finds in bars, diners, bohemian parties, and the streets w ith the goal to eventu ally fill a giant book. Soon afterwards Allan Nevins us es the tape recorder to pres erve the words of prominent individuals, but still considers oral history a branch of literature. In the decades that 9

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follow, historians embrace the potential of or al history to supplement the written record and lend voice to the historica lly silent. Most recently becoming institutionalized, oral history seeks to maintain professionalism, gui ding projects in what are generally agreed upon as proper methodologies (recording, st oring, responsible interviewing, and analysis). An abstracted version might read as follows: Beginning with its value as simply a celebration of the story and the chance for the voices of the past to reach future generations, oral history gradua lly moved toward its value as a tool for social research and cultural history. One more development occurring outside the academic realm of oral history completes the narrative. In the past severa l years there has been a trend in the United States to record the stories of the ordin ary person. Examples abound, but here I will focus on three: Journalist David Isays StoryCorps, the New York Times One in 8 Million project, and David Lynchs Interview Project .2 StoryCorps provides Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs w ith the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives (StoryCorps). New York Times One in 8 Million project introduces individuals in so und and images, ordi nary people telling extraordinary stories (One in 8 Million), and David Lynchs Interview Project is a ,000 mile road trip [where] people have been found and interv iewed, allowing the world a chance to meet these people (Lynch, Interview Project). These are just a few of the many projects that have blossomed out of what I s ee as a timely combination of anxiety over an increasingly anonymous popul ation, and the vast, powerful potential of 2 For more on each of these projects, please visit: http://storycorps.org/ http://interviewproject.davidlynch.com and http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8million/index.html 10

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the internet. I will spend a moment examining these three endeavors, looking specifically at how the phenomenon they represent fits into the current conception of oral history. StoryCorps began in 2003 with the intent ions of preserving in sound the everyday histories and stories of Americans across th e country. This mission is modeled after the Federal Writers Project of the 1930s. Since its inception, StoryCorps has collected stories from over 50,000 people, preserving them in the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. According to the site, StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind (StoryCorps). In addition to depositing the massive co llection in the Library of Congress, StoryCorps makes an effort to bring the st ories to the general public. It plays edited versions of particularly poignant intervie ws on NPRs Morning Edition. Founder David Isay has also produced several books associated with the project. These radio segments and the book compilations are what have brought StoryCorps wide renown. The radio stories inspire what NPR has proudly termed driveway moments, situations where youve reached your destination and stay in the car to fi nish the story. One book titled Listening is an Act of Love, was originally sold exclusiv ely at Starbucks and contains moving, emotionally charged stories (Teicher Collection of Stories from Everyday People). David Isay explained why these st ories are moving in an interview with jawbone.tv, a website dedicated to showcasing digital narrative: The stories of everyday people provide a rare source of authenticity in our celebrity-obsessed culture. They allow us to celebrate individual lives and to examine the day-to-day trials and triumphs that are so often overlooked and underreported (Denis "StoryCorps: Can Technology Preserve 11

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Oral History?"). It is clear that Isay has grasped the publics (at least the NPR listeners) penchant to consume emotional st ories derived from oral testimony. The next two projects are examples of a brand new and rapidly expanding movement referred to as digital storytel ling. According to the Center for Digital Storytelling, a digital story is one that tells A short, fi rst-person video-narrative created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds (Center for Digital Storytelli ng). The movement is an inte rnet-inspired way of dealing with the desire to know strangers. New York Times One in 8 Million is a digital storytelling project that presents two-minute audio slideshow profiles of charact ers in New York. The format for all the profiles is the same. Like StoryCorps, the project focuses on everyday people. Similarly, they are allowed to tell their stor y, as the interviewers voice is never heard (although it could be successfully argued that the editing process really makes it the interviewers story). Finally, th e persons story is not couched in analysis. Some of the pieces are stories of something from the past, but most are present-day profiles, more in the spirit of Joe Gould or Studs Terkel. As I investigated the pr oject, I found material from a question/answer page between viewers and the creators on the New York Times website (Talk to the Times: One in 8 Million). Sarah Kramer, series producer of the project, articu lated the populist vision behind the idea: The pieces in this series will be reflective, amusing, informative or surprising. They will not be about a ccomplishments or facts but instead about a person's passions, dreams, struggl es and the stories that make up a 12

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life. The collection will capture the sp irit of the city and its residents, spanning age, borough, race, religion and economic class. She even acknowledges the oral history roots: The project draws from the traditions of oral history and narrative portr aiture cemented by such greats as Studs Terkel and Joseph Mitchell. A viewers comment helps exemp lify why these short profiles are widely consumed: Thank you for this wonderful collecti on[The stories] are a reminder of beauty in ordinariness, they teach us how all kinds of lives old and young, learned and unlearned, strange and mundane have an intrinsic value and deserve to be honored. They also urged me to look beyond the surface of people's lives and find hidden there an individuality and an authenticity that is quietly heroic. In this world of hyper-achievement and celebrity status, these vignettes help to vali date what is real. The stories are not only poignant, but in timate. The professional black and white photography and the rich audio give the im pression that you are having a private and vulnerable interaction with a person. Because the characters are hand-selected and the interviews are expertly edited, these narrativ es stand out as the most affective (and effective) use of digital storytel ling that I have come across. In terms of multimedia, David Lynchs Interview Project is another publication with incredible depth and intimacy. Howeve r, instead of using photography, Lynch has a film crew. This fact lends the product an enha nced ability to capture the intricacies and mannerisms of the person as she tells her story, but detracts from the simple elegance achieved through still photos. 13

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The method by which interviewees were c hosen is different from the other two projects. Whereas in StoryCorps, narrators make the choice indepe ndently to enter the story booth, and the creat ors of One in 8 Million work hard to find characters who will be entertaining, or gripping narrators, Interview Project finds its subjects at truck stops, on the side of the road, or in a diner. This fact helps the stories avoid a rehearsed quality found in many of the StoryCorps interviews. Overa ll the strength of Interview Project is in its connection of story and place. The film work coupled with the way one navigates the stories (through an interactive map of the crews journey across the country) provides a Federal Writers Project-st yle representation of the diversity in the American experience. These three projects have much in common with each other. They are representative of the newest movement in Americas long legacy of celebrating the ordinary. They exemplify the rising popular ity of narrative projects, and the new possibilities afforded by modern digital recording devices. Th ey all expressly state their goal of capturing our national character, seek ing to honor the mundane. In this way, they understand the personal to be universal. Their use of audio recognizes the importance of hearing the narrators voice. In the spirit of Joe Gould and Studs Terkel, they are not interested in analyzing their material. Un like Gould and Terkel, however, they shorten their recorded content into brief, severalminute segments, picking and choosing how to represent the people. This calculated decisi on caters to the average Americans attention span on the internet. As a result of these d ecisions, all of these pr ojects are very popular, emerging in the last seven years. Yet one can only speculate as to raison dtre. 14

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Although not all of the recent story project s deal with stories of the past, they serve a similar function as the modern quest for heritage. In a world where interpersonal exchange is fleeting, stories offer a surroga te for face-to-face comm unication, a shortcut into knowing. I dont invoke the notion of heritage to argue that digita l storytelling is the heritage form of oral history. Rather, I me ntion heritage because it provides a useful framework for understanding the relationshi p between contemporar y oral history and popular digital storytelling. Geographer and scholar of He ritage Studies, David Lowe nthal identifies some of the sources of this rather self ish use of history. He notes a departure from the traditional stewardship of history and an embrace tending toward self-indulgence. This trend, he contends, has to do with weakened fam ily bonds compounded by uncertainty of the future. The ease of (literal and metaphorical) mobility that technology allows society has caused many families to disperse and lose the bonds of kinship. These are also dangerous and uncertain times. As a result, heritage is becoming a thing to consume rather than conserve (Lowenthal 52). One of the foremost concerns of the emer ging field of Heritage Studies is the use of stories of the past for present identities. Th e fact that we live in a time of quickened obsolescence and increasing alienation, a tim e when we are bombarded by media and distraction, leads us to yearn for something solid and unchanging. Inte restingly, history is often found as something fixed material fo r forming an identity. In service to this ambition, heritage bends history in its cr eative comingling of fact and fiction (Lowenthal 128). And once history becomes us ed for presentist purposes, it becomes heritage. I take interest in th e way heritage is used as a st age for social relations, and how 15

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people rely on stories of the past in order to understand themselves and one another. As Lowenthal puts it, thoughts handed down to us [are] tokens of times remembered and of lives linked with ours (Lowenthal 31). This new obsession with telling the stories of ordinary citizens can be thought of as an effort to understand. It allows anonymous faces to become knowable. It comforts us to know that those people bustling around us every day are experiencing the same realities of life as we arethat common e xperience connects us to strangers more than anything that might divide us. At their roots, heritage and oral histor y are quite similar. They both deal with preserving aspects of the past to shed light on the present. They ar e both tools helping to bring representation to underrepresented social groups. They both involve personal claims to events of the past, processed th rough an individuals own lens. And sometimes as Geographer David Lowenthal states, herita ge mandates misreadings of the past, and these interpretations of ones past can beco me cherished myths (Lowenthal 129). Oral history also tends to collect such misreadin gs (whether scholars value them or not is another question). The publication of stories on the internet is a clear example of how heritage and oral history can become commodified, reflecting the current consumer demand for it. The question that must eventually be as ked is: Are these projects oral history? The answer is not simple and the question is only beginning to be addressed. The Oxford Journals Oral History Review has publis hed two articles dealing with the new prevalence of public consumption of oral narratives. One, published in the fall, 2009 edition asked, What is StoryCorps, anyway? The other, not yet available in print, 16

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reviews the Interview Project Both of these articles acknow ledge the likeness these story projects have to oral historical methodology, but decline to in clude them in the annals of oral history. In What is StoryCorps, Anyway? Nancy Abelmann et al. contend that the StoryCorps interviews are not oral history, but highly sculpted inte rviews that last only 40 minutestoo short for the cu rrent practice. Furthermore, oral history projects typically produce transcripts that reveal the tracks of the investig ator. Rephrasing and editing out the false starts and stutters l eave certain elements lost in translation (Abelmann et al. 256). Therefor e StoryCorps is less an oral history and more a highly ritualized performance that inserts the narr ator into a public culture of affect and remembering, producing poignant moments of self-consci ous gifts to the future (Abelmann et al. 257). This is considered distinct from the mode of the oral historical record. The ritualized performance the authors de scribe is a deliberate transmission of wisdom and feeling from one generation to the next (Abelmann et al. 259). As two people enter the story booth, an intimacy is instantly constructed. As such, StoryCorps offers the dream of communication, a con cept of John Durham Pe ters that connotes a communication where nothing is misunderst ood, hearts are open, and expression is uninhibited (Abelmann et al. 258 ). Therefore the value of th e project, according to the authors, lies not in the hi storical content produced by the interviews, but in the experiences created for participants as they sit in the recording booth. For this reason, one might think of StoryC orps as a community service more than an oral history project. While the collabo ration that occurs during an oral history 17

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interview often has a as a byproduc t a therapeutic effect, StoryCorps seems to elevate this effect as a central goal. As such, the articl e considers StoryCorps as constituent of the current era of self-publica tion, and public testimony (Abelm ann et al. 260). The project is lumped into the category of Facebook and blogging, an endless flow of selfdocumentation. The question then arises: If our records of ourselves are endless, how can we decide what is enduring? StoryCorps has not given any si gn that it intends to slow down its collection. In the ephemeral and imma terial digital world, what is enduring is simply a matter of Darwinian fitness. The review on Interview Project is similarly condescending, albeit slightly more forgiving. Bryan provides a succinct and blunt an swer to the question: Is the project oral history? that it is worth quoting in full: One might be inclined to ask if this project is oral history. Surely not, so far as oral history is defined by an extended reflection between a prepared interviewer and a narrator on a particular historical circumstance. The amount of biographical information published in each video portrait varies; the full interviews are not available, and the project overall is not oriented toward a historical question. Further, the loosely structured interview style is not singularly grounded in oral history methodology (Bryan, Interview Project). Clearly Bryan doesnt consider the Interview Project oral history, however she sees value in the way it represents a new arena for the application of the disciplines theoretical lens. The modern publication of reflective narrative is useful as long as the oral historian can impart considerations to collecting a nd navigating them. In other words these stories can be considered useful to oral hi story because they increase the relevance of the discipline's theories and call for their furt her application. This attitude suggests that 18

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modern oral historians are not ready to embrace the value of the story without subjecting it to theoretical (re)interpretation (Bryan, Interview Project). The most recent developments in the use of oral narrative bring oral history full circle; the more recent theoretical discussions on the proper forms of oral history have weighed down the practice and have not yet de alt with the greater problem of modern oral history: should it be a tool and methodology to s upport other fields of study, or should it have status as a discip line of its own? Perhaps it would be too radical to propose it become its own discipline, however, oral hi storians should move forward in a way that liberates their work from the analytical necessi ties of the social scie nces. Such a direction would enable it to be reconsidered as a mo re public practice, allowing projects that are useful to broader society and not simply theo retical exercises in the academic sphere. Creative non-fiction offers a useful exampl e for imagining this direction. Some of the great detail-rich, well-crafted narratives are produced by literary journalists writing in the genre. These authors sometimes spend y ears with one subject, gathering interviews and close contact with a certain social situation, to attain intimacy with a subject far beyond what is typical for an oral historia n. The accounts created by creative non-fiction writers are not stories recorded directly from the lips of the historical actors, but they accomplish a special accuracy in their own right I am aware of the hazards inherent in associating the work of history with journa listic writing, and I do not privilege one over the other. My intention is to point out that literature is not often subject to judgment of the authors method. A good work is apprec iated as a good work. Likewise, the validity of oral history could be found in a well-docum ented and well-presented project, not in its academic praxis. Bringing the lived realities of a particular social situation or community 19

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to the surface is very much a political goal, with real impacts. Pe rhaps the value of the oral testimony extends beyond the territory of history and perhaps the value of telling a story is the performance of the story being told. As anthropologi st Laura Bohannan found in her experiences described in Shakespeare in the Bush a story never has one meaning (Bohannan 25). Every person gets something differe nt from a story and this is what gives story its power. It is for this reason I tra ce the beginnings of oral history with the nonacademic impulse of Joe Gould and the literary approach of Allen Nevins to recorded conversation. Oral history does not need to abandon its academic approach, but it would do well to embrace the digital storytelling m ovement, incorporati ng it and learning from it. Contemporary oral history cr eates useful and fascinating projects, but often fails to reach the public or to inspire. (And I don t think I am in grave error by assuming oral historians would like to see their efforts mo re widely appreciated). A solution would be to liberate the methodology from the product. Other disciplines can use oral history methodologies and subject them to critical anal ysis. Or they can subject already existing oral history archives to critical analysis. Bu t the Oral History Association could be more tolerant than to require a critical approachin the use of oral history (Oral History Evaluation Guidelines). There should be room fo r projects that simply gather stories and present them for public consumption. Such a move would be rewarding for the vast efforts of those involved in the projects, and would implicitly be a confirmation of their professed respect, and apprecia tion for, the narrators under standing of his or her own history. The idea that oral hist ories cannot be taken as literal truth has been an issue in oral history since Nevins, but fact-checking does not need to be the job of an oral 20

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historian. As oral historia n Alessandro Portelli reminds us, untrue statements are psychologically true. The importance of oral testimony may often not lie in its adherence to facts, but rather in its divergence from them, where imagination, symbolism, desire break in (Yow 22). I see the value of stories for their ability to link people to place, convey values, and describe communities. This should be the great mission of oral history. My project presents a model for merging oral history and digi tal storytelling. For example, my project almost fits within the evaluation guidelines of the OHA. Take their most basic definition of the pr actice: The Oral History Asso ciation promotes oral history as a method of gathering and preserving historical information through recorded interviews with participants in past events and ways of life (O ral History Evaluation Guidelines). By this criterion, my project would receive a warm welcome into the community of oral historians. In fact, th roughout nearly the entire 5,200 word document, my project would be deemed up to snuff. However, there is one subtle, yet fatal qualification that excludes my work: A critical approach to the oral testimony and interpretations are necessary in the use of oral histor y (Oral History Evaluation Guidelines). I would never argue that this is a misuse of the oral hist orical narrative, but it implies that a story is not enough. A stor y must indicate something. Or it should exemplify something else. Or it must rouse suspicions when it sounds unlikely. For my project, I hope each story will speak for itsel f. I hope imaginations will be engaged and memories sparked. Each story contains a wea lth of information, either revealed in the details of the narrated events or in the assumptions and implicit features behind it all. My 21

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hope is that, taken as a whole, the collection will provide a holistic portrait of camp at an emotional level. Another critical exclusion is the fact that my project has not made the full interviews publicly available. In the section on th e responsibilities to the profession, the OHA guidelines state: Regardless of the specifi c interests of the pr oject, interviewers should attempt to extend the inquiry beyond the specific focus of the project to create as complete a record as possible for the be nefit of others (Oral History Evaluation Guidelines). My interviews were focused, and only lasted about an hour each. And throughout the OHA prescriptions there is the assumption that the project includes transcripts. While it never explicitly mandates them, they are mentioned as if there is no question that one has them. I produced no tran scriptions. For my purposes, I do not view this as a flaw, as my focus was always on the website. With more time or funds I could produce transcripts for the historical record, and I do believe these would be valuable to the Baltimore Yearly Meeting and perhaps the family members of those interviewed. Nevertheless, the fact that I have cut th e interviews down to only a few, thoroughly edited audio clips completely takes away any hopes of joining the ranks of accepted academic oral history projects. While my website would not qualify as an oral history project by OHA standards, it is more oral historical than the journa listic-oriented projects of digital storytelling. From the onset, my concerns were historical in nature, and almost all of the interview questions involved summoning events and memori es from the past. The historical nature is further emphasized by the large age range, th e past-tenseness of the stories, and most of all, the histories section of the site. 22

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Therefore, I view my project as o ccupying a middle ground be tween oral history and digital storytelling. It repr esents a new possible direction for oral history, allowing for the historical materials to reach a larger more engaged audience. I recognize that the stories I have gathered are not of the same uni versal appeal attained by projects like One in 8 Million or Interview Project but my intentions are not for commercial ends. I wanted to capture some of the histories, real ities, and valuable e xperiences from a place that I and so many others have been nurtured by. I wanted to help remind those who lived it, and help those who did not understand what makes the camp extr aordinary. But I also wanted to make the memories accessible, entertaining, and useful. The result is something I believe can help inspire oral hi story to see the new territory of digital storytelling as something worthy of exploration. Case Study: Catoctin Quaker Camp While describing a place like Catoctin seems to be an impossible undertaking, there are ways to approach it. One way to st art is from the institutional point of view. Catoctin Quaker Camp is offered by the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Camping Program, whose mission is to offer extended time in living, functioning Quaker communities that encourage tenderness, loving concern, dynamic activity, laughter, respect, work, honesty, silence, and joyful noise (Baltimore Y early Meeting Summer Camps). This mission, while it may sound like a laundr y list of feel-good buzzwords, is actually an accurate description of what occurs there. It is the scaffolding behind the challenges of three-day backpacking and canoeing trips every wee k, the swimming, the arts and crafts, the 23

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informal music and drama, the low pressure athl etics, and the chores. It is present in the daily silent worships at th e fire circle, the evening campfires, and the continuous supporting, loving environment. This is how the camp might describe itself. Others, who have witnessed their children go through the before-and-after stages of the summer have found their own ways of describing it. My mother always called it a place of controlled disaster, suggesti ng camps mission to encourage campers and counselors to take considerable risks in activities like negotiating rapi ds, but always in a safe and supportive environment. Controlled di saster also alludes to Catoctins credo: Way Opens, which is the idea that a need or a problem will be solved serendipitously or through divine guidance. Camp frequently seeks out these moments, such as through adventure trips when campers and counsel ors are driven blindfolded to an unknown location and must rely on thei r own abilities and the help of strangers to find their way back to camp. My stepfather describes Catoct in as Saturday Night Live all the time, focusing on the atmosphere of absurdity and goofiness that results as campers and counselors construct a community where ever yone is allowed to sh ed the inhibitions garnered from competitive and socially segr egated institutions outside of camp. Another parent has appreciated Catoctin for the spir ituality and self-knowledge it inspires in her son, noting how every summer, t he fire in his center grows larger (Baltimore Yearly Meeting Summer Camps). Spirituality, however it is expressed through each individual, is continuously encouraged through silent wo rship, admiration of th e natural world, and deliberate reflection on the impact and meaning of different experien ces. These parental descriptions are based on obs ervations of the impact cam p has on their children. From 24

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someone who has been personally influen ced by these experiences, satisfactory descriptions are di fficult to summon. For example, ever since my first summer spent at Catoctin when I was thirteen, camp has been a place I have referred to simp ly as my favorite place in the world. To try to describe camp in any other way woul d take a long time, and ultimately do it an injustice. At the same time, I have never ha d the words for it anyway. For me, camp is a feeling, a place, a bundle of memories, even an identity. As I have grown older, Ive come to see the ways that camp has written itself on me and my life. Calling Catoctin my favorite place in the world was like a short cut for letting people know what it means to me, a quick attempt to get the nod that said: Oh, I se e its more than just a summer camp for you. In time I have come to find that the mo st powerful way to describe it is through narrationstories from the myriad experi ences afforded by the camp activities and atmosphere in general. That I found this to be true makes sense because one of the great projects of camp is to provide experien ces that become inte rnalized through their recanting. Not all of the camp stories I find myself telling actually involve mea fact that points to the central ro le stories play at Catoctin. Indeed there is a strong oral tradition at camp that helps give form to the community identity of Catoctin. The oral traditions of Catoctin are some of its most powerful assets. A facts-andfigures description of the camp achieves litt le more than a basic understanding of the materiality of it. What fills in these bits and pieces are the intangi ble parts of the camp culture. As a former camper from the 1980s put it, camp is not so much a place as it is 25

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an attitude, a way of interacting with each ot her. As I will illuminate shortly, these ways of interacting are profoundly envoiced. But first, a note on terminology. Orality is a term generally re served for societies with little or no knowledge of writing. While camp is certainly not an illiterate culture, it is very much an oral cultureespecially in comparison to the technology-obsessed social structures outside of camp. In this document I will use orality to describe Catoctin somewhat inaccurately because I have yet to find a better term to describe a community in which oral testimony and song shape the inte rnal experiences and ex ternal interactions more than chirographic, or written communication3. I found this orality of Catoctin to be a perfect candidate for an oral history website. Because a great part of the experien ce is verbal, an attempt to depict it in a written form would be inadequate. The songs the stories, the emotional and spiritual dialogues; they are the stuff of camp. The best way to experience them, aside from actually being at camp during the summer, is through audio recordi ng. And the non-linear arrangement of a website allows for indivi dualized navigation through these recordings. A better understanding of the different performative traditions and oral rituals of camp will help to reveal why I have chosen Cato ctin for my online oral history project. The orality of camp falls into three broad categories: song, storytelling, and open and continuous dialogue. Thes e verbal events are enacted through performance and ritual, and each serves a valuable function in the co mmunity and individual experience alike. It should be mentioned that the description of camp that follows is from my own experience and understanding of it, and is necessarily from the point of view of someone who has 3 Walter J Ongs work of the 1980s, particularly, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word pioneered the investigations between orality and literacy. 26

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been a counselor and staff member. While little about the stru cture and operations of the camp have changed over the decades, the experience of camp is deeply personal and might be variously interpreted by different pe ople. Thus, what I present below is what I hope to be an adequate, albeit greatly limite d and translated introduction to camp and its orality. At the end of every summer, it is aske d of the camp community, How can we bring camp into our regular lives? Inevitably someone will suggest the importance of singing throughout the year. This is because for most campers and counselors, summers at camp are times when they sing far more than any other period of their lives. The reasons song figures prominently in camp ar e many, but Barry Morley, former director for over twenty years suggests, Familiarity w ith our songs helps us be us. They are the songs we sing together over a period of years. They give us identity. They are part of our celebration of ourselv es (Morley, 13). In most cases, singing is a performativ e activity. The beginning or ending of mealtimes can sometimes be a cacophonous clamor of different songs being shouted in friendly competition. Perhaps a camper will stand on a bench and initiate a round of Little Tom Tinker a song during which everyone leaps up in shots and mimed pain at different points. Ex. 1. Little Tom Tinker; (Morley 10). 27

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The performance of song occurs in a more or ganized fashion throughout different parts of the day, offering opportunities for campers, and especially younger counselors, to become a focus of attention as they act out or dance parts of the songs. Sometimes singing is an accompaniment to other activities. Whether passing the time while hiking on a trail, or distracting one self during the different chores all must participate in after meals, campers are of ten found singing. The curre nt director, Linda Garrettson recognizes the unifying effect of this: If youre a nine year old and you know the same songs that a thirteen or fourteen year old knows, then when youre doing dishes togetheryoure definitely not having the same experience in terms of what youre thinking about, but if you know an hours wort h of songs together, its something that creates a commonality (Linda Garrettson). In subtle and prominent ways alike, the performance of song is important for defining a camp co mmunal identity. Song is also used prominently as ritual. For example, every evening in camp (as opposed to when units are out on trips), units4 are sent off to bed, one at a time, youngest to oldest, with the singing of Goodnight Irene, except for the unit number is sung in place of Irene. The most important appli cation of singing occurs at the beginning of each Thursday and Sunday night campfires. On these evenings, the camp gathers around the fire circle just before dawn, and a fire is lit at the center. Singing is led by the director. For these occasions, songbooks are distributed to those who want them; however, many campers take great pride in knowing all th e songs without them. These moments around the fire have provided me with some of the most lasting images of camp. A few 4 Unit consist of consisting of generally 5-10 boys of about the same age matched with two older male counselors, and 5-10 girls of the same age matched with two older female counselors. 28

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counselors usually walk around th e circle between the fire an d the rest of camp, helping to lead the songsperforming during the rowd ier songs, and pausing to lead during the rounds. As a camper, this was a time when I would admire the counselors and dream of one day getting to run around the fire myself As the surrounding woods grew dark, the songs tended to become slower and gentler, leading ultimately to silent worship. It wasnt until this last summer that I learned from Linda Garrettson that there was a deliberate progression: I can bring us up. I can go high energy song, high energy song, high energy song, and boom: we are flying high. And then I can bring us back down into a calm and centered place. And thats just by song choice and how were leading those songsThat sounds like a power trip, but there really is a method to how I imag ine the singing every day (Linda Garrettson). The most sacred song is sung to signal the e nd of the silent worship. It starts with the director whose solitary voice sings the firs t line of the three-part round, Oh light abide with us. She walks around the circle, singing th e first line twice more, letting the section of people she passes know which part of the round they are to sing, and then continues with the last group, For it is now the evening. They day is past and over. The round is sung three times filling the circle with rich ha rmonies. The last chord is allowed to linger in the air during the brief s ilence that follows. This song, Oh Light Abide with Us, is of such importance to me, that I was almost unable to get a recording of it. I felt sacrilegious being silent during its singing and guilty trying to capture its immediacy and esotericism on recording. The use of song at camp, whethe r in performance or ritual, allows for 29

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meaningful communication and ce lebration of community, and now here is this seen more than at the Thursday and S unday night fire circles. The Thursday night fire circles are also an especially verdant environment for the telling of stories. While campfire stories generally suggest a de gree of manipulation, such as in their most common application as fear-provoking spooky tales, the stories told at camp are intended for reflection and appr eciation. These stories come from campers and counselors who have spent the last three da ys on an adventure. Thursday fire circles are dedicated to stories from these important experiences, and Linda walks slowly around the fire, signaling to those who are closest that they are welcome to speak. She explains at the beginning that this is a time to think about what happened during the camping adventures: What was beautiful? When did the way open? Who were your heroes and sheroes? A hero or shero is a person who did something special to help another person on the trip, or who made a significant effort to overcome a challenge or limitation of some sort. The stories are about learni ng, helping, experiencing new things, and accepting one another. They promote review and reflection on personal experiences and appreciation for the actions of others. Through th e narration of these st ories, the values of the camping program are internalized by the campers and counselorsvalues of community, self-esteem, spiritual growth, ope nness to challenge, helpfulness. Furthermore, the trips and the fire circles are mutually reinforcing. When you know that you might be honored at fire circle for certain behaviors, you are more likely to take opportunities to help someone or welc ome experiences that allow you to surpass your own expectations. And from the experien ces furnished by such reinforced behavior come the stories that inspire and enrich those at the fire circle. In other words, because of 30

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the prospect of being heralded as a hero or shero in stories, people become heroes and sheroes in their lives. By a llowing all to partic ipate in the public honoring of certain actions, this ritual helps give meaning to the experiences of the camp community. And just as oral history makes public the heroic actions of a narrator with no historical witness, these fire circle stories provide a source of self-satisfaction and pride for the camper who is lauded (Yow 16). Linda Garrettson puts it this way: We send children out and we push themout of their comfort zone because we know that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. Well sometimes it feels like its too much, and yet, when you come back from a trip and you hear all of th e [stories], realizing that, yeah it was hard, but that conversation that kept me going, or that person who took care of me when I was sick And sometimes as a child, you dont have that really clearly in your mind. So then you go to fire circle, you sing some crazy songs, and then you hear those messages, and you go Oh, right. I did make it and I am proud of myself, and it was hard. Thats genius (Linda Garrettson). Understanding this powerful ritual of relati ng stories from the trips is crucial to understanding how the camp helps change lives. Another nucleus of camp stories is fo und in the informal exchanges amongst counselors. This is the sour ce of some of my greatest st ories, and ultimately the inspiration for choosing Catoctin for the fo cus of my project. Such exchanges occur primarily in two different scenar ios. One is during lodge nights5, and the other is during 5 Lodge nights are the night hours that counselors have to themselves. While those with the rotating position of night counselor are staying out with the cab ins, the rest of staff is together in the lodge. 31

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visits from counselors of summers past. T ogether, these gatherings provide the great unrecorded oral historie s of Camp Catoctin. If the mood is right, a lodge night can be a groundswell of narrative. A group will gather on the couches in the lodge or stand together snacking in the kitchen and people will take turns telling stories. They can be stor ies from the most recent trips that couldnt be told at fire circle. Or th ey can be stories from summer s past. Sometimes there are new stories, but very often they ar e the well-established legends, th e stuff of camp lore, retold for the benefit of new counselors, or simply for the joy of the story. In special circumstances, a counselor from years past will visit during the summer. These are the rare times when some one can provide firsthand accounts of some of the stories that have become legends. These are also opportunities to hear the stories that were told and retold in past generations, or just to hear what it was like to be a counselor in their time. For example, I rememb er the time I learned that a major aspect of counselor culture used to be going on drive s, where a group of counselors would pile into a pickup truck and drive around the mountai n. These are the types of stories I tried to capture in the interviews for my project, but they are intimately connected with people and place, and seem to thrive only in these hallowed moments at camp. This transmission of the oral traditions however, is an important and distinct ive way of interacting in the community, and bestows a sense of a rich, continuous history. The third category of camps orality is what I call open and continuous dialogue. This has always been a facet of camp, but its prevalence has increased greatly under the directorship of Linda Garrettson, and its continuation is vi tal for the community Depending on the particular dynamics of the group and other extraneous factors, these nights can be anywhere along the spectrum between absu rd and anarchic to calm and quiet. 32

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to function as well as it does. Whether through organized staff meetings, regular smallgroup feedback sessions, or informal convers ation, communication is nearly in constant flow amongst the staff. Because we rarely reference written documents such as employee handbooks6 or standards of practice, camp relie s on frequent dialogue to ensure the summer runs smoothly and safely. The inst itutionalized forms of dialogue can be organized into three categories: the Quaker commitment to consensus, check-ins, and the processing of community issues. All thr ee of these depend on honest and responsible dialogue to focus our careful attention to th e community that we want to create and how to be that community on the trai l and at camp (Linda Garrettson). My experiences at camp have furnishe d me with an intrinsic penchant for consensus. Nearly every decision made at camp is through Quaker process, or the commitment to reaching a group decision such that all differences are discussed and considered until the group is able to reach a point where unity is felt. In this way, camp achieves its own version of the kind of dream of co mmunication strived for by StoryCorps. Sometimes, however, a crisis situat ion arises at camp and consensus is not a reasonable goal. In these situations, a decision is made by the director and those directly involved, and then processed as a staff until a sense of the group, or understanding is reached. This commitment to consensus can lead to uncommonly long staff meetings, but the process is vital to the community and the standards set forth by the program. The check-in, another important form of communication, encourages selfawareness and emotional literacy. A check-in is essentially a conversation that asks the question how are you? exp ecting, a thoughtful and honest an swer. Informal check-ins 6 Just last summer I learned camp does have a written po licy for its staff, however, it is only used as an outline to guide discussion at the beginning of the summer. 33

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happen constantly between people throughout th e summer. They are a vital part of the way individuals care for one another. As an entire staff, camp has five mass check-ins: One at the beginning of the summer (sometim es lasting up to six hours), one in between each session, one at the end of the summer, and a more focused, drug and alcohol checkin before camp begins. These are intended to let the whole staff know how each person is doing, and what is going on in his or her life They are important tr ust-building rituals, and help to bring the community closer together. The drug and alcohol check-in is instructive of the t ype of open and continuous dialogue strived for at camp. The use of drugs or alcohol is not allo wed at camp. At the beginning of each summer the staff sits in a ci rcle and each person is given the space if desired to talk about his or her relationship with drugs and/or alcohol, but each person makes the verbal commitment to not use eith er at camp. There is always a discussion and consensus reached about why they do not f it with the camp culture or mission, and the commitment is followed. Despite the fact that ever since th is commitment began several decades ago, drugs and alcohol have not b een a part of camp, it is renewed at the beginning of every summer. This example helps to show the degree of camps regard for the power of candid discussion. A related ritual of dialogue is seen in what Catoctin calls apple-onion-apple a metaphor for the delivery of feedback that sandwiches an area for growth between two things you appreciate about someone. Appl e-onion-apple occurs between the unit counselors and their staff liais on multiple times every summer. It is a true exercise in honesty, vulnerability, and interpersonal commun ication, and ultimately helps to create a system where we are accountab le to ourselves and for thos e around us. The role of this 34

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community-building ritual is so central to the functioning of the staff unit that Linda Garrettson considers it her greatest gift to the camping program: Clearly the way we communicatethe apple-onion-apple system which I really helped bring into being my fi rst year here (which is now throughout the camping program), I feel like ultim ately if you said, whats your gift to this program, I would say thats my gift; Is helping our counselor community communicate with each other in such an open and intentional wayIts powerful (Linda Garrettson). Communication and evaluation are found not only in these intimate, mutual consultations, but also in st aff-wide discussions on the bigger pictures of camp. One of camps strongest assets is its commitment to evaluation and reassessment of its goals, practices, traditions, and assump tions. These discussions range from how to respond to camper presence on Facebook outside of camp to why we allow mixed genders to sleep under the same tarp while on the trail. Counselors spend a week before campers arrive in thoughtful dialogue about the different roles they have and how to best care for the campers, their peers, and themselves. The content of these discussions is generally engendered through con certed effort rather than dictated from above. Any issue that affects the community will be processe d with the smaller group that was directly involved, as well as the entire staff. After the campers leave at the end of the summer, the staff remains for several days of rigorous ev aluation of each other, the past seven weeks, and considerations are laid out for the next summer. I have always marveled at Catoctins steadfast commitment to open and continuous dialogue. Sometimes it allows camp to adapt to changes, other times it helps camp rema in consistent and true to its values. In 35

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either case, the fact that orality is at its core, allows the camps mission to continue to flourish. I have illustrated the three manifesta tions of camps oralit y (song, stories, open dialogue) in order to demonstrat e the oral historical potentia l found in the traditions and rituals that shape Catoctin. I believe the success of Catoctin is a result of the evolution of these different practices and lore, never wr itten down, but passed along experientially and orally. In fact, the entire st ructure of camp can be understood as a lattice of traditions. Through the songs, the stories, and the intentio nal dialogue, camps hist ory is written into the unique experiences of ev eryone who becomes a part of the communitya community that is continuous, but is different every summ er. It is different because it is recreated each time with the unique interaction of the personalities present. I view the memories of people who have been a part of the traditions over the diffe rent generations as fertile ground for oral history. Becoming a part of the camp community is a unique and often life-changing experience. The recording of these experiences through story allows past, present, and future campers to know the orig ins of traditions, learn about the ones that dont exist anymore, and hear about ones that have developed after their time. As a final note, the slogan of the Baltim ore Yearly Meeting Camping Program is Fire at the Center. This notion has literal and metaphorical meaning for Catoctin. Fire circles are always conducted with a fire at the center. These o ccasions are where the community ideals most fully flourish. Fire at the center can also refer to the ones inner spiritual journey and the Quaker notion of the inner light. Former director Barry Morley believes that to encourage spiritual unfolding, a fire at the center is vital. People sitting in a circle around flam e form a powerful living meta phor for an individual looking 36

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inward toward the Light (Morley, 7). Fire at the Center locates these fire circles as the heart of camp. During these rituals, vital stories are told. Over time, these stories gather into larger stories and become, for many, a center for the larger continuous story that becomes ones life story. While I can not sp eak for others, I know that for myself, I can locate Catoctin in the fire at my center. My project to preserve these stories shows how the Catoctin experience is cr eated through conditions that s timulate story and is then memorialized through story. Thus, story is at the center of camp, a nd the center of my thesis. My decision to conduct an oral history on Catoctin was two-fold. One reason was personal. The entire project can be viewed as an attempt to better understand the community and place that has nurtured me into the person I am today; and to see how it has affected others. The other reason, more practical in na ture, has to do with camps orality described above. As I have learned, however, there is a great difference between deciding to do an oral history project, and actually carrying it out. The process that led to what is now found on cqcoralhistory.org required the rapid acquisition of many new skills. It involved crucial decisions in order to create what I envisioned as an efficient, engaging, and user-friendly oral history website. Process: I conducted the interviews over the summer. In the beginning I remember feeling for the first time that I was not a profe ssional when I really should have been. The interviewees had a difficult time getting into the mindset where camp stories came easily 37

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and I was unable to help. Historian Kevin Blackburn calls this the temporality of testimony, acknowledging the problem that oral history interviews are almost always separated from the time and place in question (Blackburn 235). Accessing the mindset of camp storytelling was particularly difficult in so me situations. For example, at one point I interviewed someone in a New York office building, and much of the recording is taken up by silence and repeated apologies for the failu re to think of any stories. This inability to conjure stories is just one issue with the constructed setting of an interview. Stories are also told in different styles, depending on the audience and the situation. A story told in th e lodge with a bunch of younger counselors as an audience will be told much differently than how it woul d be narrated to me, a veritable stranger to some of the interviewees. In an attempt to address these issues I we nt through several complete overhauls of my interview questions. At one point I reali zed I had been afraid to ask questions I already knew the answers to, a nd that doing so was necessary to get certain things on record. Another time I realized that I was re lying too heavily on my interviewees ability to pull stories out of a vacuum. Over time I became more comfortable with the interview process and my questions were honed. I began to relax and tr eat the interview more as a conversation. Throughout the conversation, if a possible story came up, I woul d ask it to be told in story form. This helped me realize the differe nce a seasoned intervie wer makes. Historian Melissa Walker puts it this way: Oral history is a dialoguebetween an interviewer and the narrator. Thus, the interviewer plays a significant role in shaping memory as it is 38

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expressed in the narrative. The que stions an interviewer asks help determine the contours of the story An interviewer who says tell me your life story will get a far differe nt set of recollections than an interviewer who says tell me about life during the great depression (Walker 13). This quotation also points to the potential power an interviewer has to influence the story. Some scholars have gone so far as to say that given the interviewers power to shape the narrative and frame the history, or al historys benefits of giving the narrator more agency is considered an illusion (Chamberlain and Thompson 138). Yet in the end, the interv iewee has the most control over what goes on recording, and, as I found out, for most people, it is easier to talk abou t past experiences descriptively or reflec tively. The interviewees wanted to tell me what camp meant to them, why it was important. Ideas were often spoken in generalizati ons rather than in details. What I was looking for, the lively camp stories told in the lodge and kitchen at camp, is apparently something that happens onl y in these special in formal, group settings. As a result, each interview only contains one or a small few of the stand-alone stories I was trying to get. This fact was lost however as I edited th e interviews during the fall. Looking back through the folders I created for the different interviewees, I can see a change over time: I increased the number of clips as time went on. The first interview I edited, I picked only three stories out of over an hour-long interview. By the last few interviews I was creating 16 or even 20 audio clips. Yet only a few of thes e were actually stories. It is clear to me what happened. The more inundated in the minutia I became, the more I lost sight of the 39

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original intention. As the ed iting process progressed I became increasingly unable to declare certain things unworthy. All seemed preciouseverything worth listening to. I somehow forgot that I was looking for storie s about camp and started keeping anything that could stand by itself. In this discover y, I got a glimpse into why historian Barbara Tuchman complained that over-documen tation was causing those who write contemporary history to drown in u nneeded information (Ritchie 132). And this same gradual shift occurred dur ing the interview process. I started off with the idea that I would never ask about the significance of camp. I recognized that affective descriptions or reflect ions on the significance of th e experience have their place, but in general are not engaging to the average listener. However, as mentioned before, the interviewees seemed to be most comforta ble talking about why camp was special to them. Therefore, the fact that the preponderance of edited audi o clips is descriptive rather than narrative is a consequen ce of both the natural tendencies of the narrator and the fact that the deeper involved I became with the cont ent, the less I was able to see the forest for the trees. Because of this, I had to go back through and pick out the camp stories These cherry-picked narratives are the chosen few. There are about 90 clips taken from over 270 several minute-long clips that were gather ed from over 24 hours worth of interviews. These specially selected stories, each liberated from the likes, ums, misspeaks, pauses, and other undesirable aural elements, were mastered and converted for the web. Upon completion of the editing process, I entered the period of teaching myself web design. I did not realize the navet of my intentions until I actually began this process. The details are uninteresting, so I will only mention that I had to abandon my 40

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aspirations to learn Adobe Flash, and use basic html and CSS via Adobe Dreamweaver instead. As a result, the original vision fo r my website was necessarily revised. The principles however remained the same: The st ories are organized by the individual, thus mitigating the complications of overlapping topics or themes while simultaneously emphasizing the individuals unique experien ce of camp and understanding of his or her story. There is also a map of camp, featuring short clips that describe the way life at camp has been over the past 50 years. These clip s allow me to use some of the audio I edited over the semester that were not included in the final cut of stories, as well as provide an interactive historical aspect to the site. The only real difference is th at the website is not as sleek and flashy as I had dreamed of. Conclusion: Technology, the Man behind the Curtain The entire process, from the beginning to end, has had technology as the man behind the curtainbuttons, knobs, and all. Or al history, in its contemporary form, is founded on technology. Recall Allan Nevins discip lined efforts to record oral testimony on archived tapes. As technology has advanced, it has widened the sc ope and possibilities of oral history projec ts. From wax cylinder to reel-to-r eel to audio cassette to digital formats, oral historians have been increasingl y liberated from the c onstraints of place and equipment. They are able to take on projects that document the experiences of events in their immediate aftermath, su ch as Steven M. Sloans Hu rricane Katrina Oral History Project (Sloan 182). The tools required for a successful oral hist ory endeavor have become so compact that I was able to carry everything I needed for my project in a 41

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backpack. In fact, within the same month of this documents writing, there has been the release of an iPhone application7 that enables full-feature audio editing, such that a conversation on a bus ride can be recorded, edited, mixed down, and published all on one device; all without l eaving ones seat. Now that these tools and publishing platforms have become more widely accessible, some oral historians are becomi ng wary. We now live in an age where the amateur can compete with the professional. The result has been de stabilizing for many. Just as journalists must sometimes distinguish themselves from blogge rs, oral historians must draw lines between their historical mission and that of the growing fascination over online human interest stories. Oral history is fundamentally dependent on technology, and yet it is technology that now strikes at its carefully constructed foundation. The oral history community is justified in struggling to define its role in the consumption of oral testimony, and my website is a conversation st arter for how oral history might not only use, but even capitalize on the developing technology. Oral history is rich with ironymuch of it a result of technology. From a broad standpoint, oral history endeavors to make permanent an inherently impermanent form of communication. Spoken language is often va lued for the immediate and ephemeral interactions that occu r between speaker and listener. It is distinct from, and often in opposition to written language. When oral hi story records these communications, it creates a stable record of a rather sponta neous human exchange, often compromising the richness of it. This irony of oral history was especia lly evident in the in trusion of technology into the camp setting. Aside from the difficulty of recording the spontaneous stories of 7 www.monleapp.com 42

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camp, I found the presence of electronic equipm ent in the camp setting to be problematic. Camp is a place frequently treasured as a sanc tuary from the constant specter of digital devices that typifies most of our daily lives. At camp, the us e of technology is explicitly minimized. The sleeping structures are w ithout electricity, ce ll phones are unable to receive signals, and all forms of electroni c entertainment are prohibited on the camper packing list. To my knowledge, none of th e sounds of camp had heretofore been recorded. My experiences over the summer helped me understand why. Carrying around recording equipment demands a level of rem oval from the immediate situation, requiring one to consider its value for the perman ent record. Furthermore, in a technophobic community such as Catoctin, any digital reco rding device will draw skeptical glances and can serve as an abrupt remi nder of the continuous documenta tion of our modern lives. I am well aware of the irony in using technology to record th e ephemeral moments that are typically allowed to happen because of its ab sence, but the benefits of preserving the stories and sounds outweigh the rather awkward moments of the process. In this case, the ends justify the means. Thus the presence of paradoxes is not reason to discredit the pursuit of oral history. However, bringing them to the fore is useful, not so much to highlight the theoretical problems, but to illuminate th eir bearing on their r eal-world application. Recorded interviews are sometimes uncomfortab le, artificial interac tions. The desire to record can bring unwanted technology into the natural world and other incompatible situations. Finally, the use of technology can result in infinite levels of mediation between representation and reality. 43

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Technology brings about many ironies in our lives, but so much, including oral history itself, is made possible through its de velopment. It has allowed for this entire project. It has allowed me to present the inte rviews in such a way that my presence is eliminated. All marks of the process have been removed. It has allowed for these manipulations, rendering special prescience to the notion, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. My desire to learn the skills that would enable me to create online content indicates an acceptance of the ascendanc y of technology for communication in our current digital environment. And the fact that I was able to produce a finished piece even remotely close to my original vision is owi ng to the technological advancements in both digital devices and software programs th at enable the executio n of sophisticated programming and editing w ithout professional training. The digital storytelling community has recognized the vast potential of online and multimedia narratives, and the oral history community has much to gain fr om their examples. My website presents a method for bringing oral history outside of the limits of print and into the unlimited possibilities of the internet. Speaking of whichthis has been enough chirography. Lets go back to the website. 44

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Works Cited: Abelmann, Nancy, Susan Davis, Cara Finnegan, and Peggy Miller. "What is StoryCorps, Anyway?" Oral History Review 36.2 (2009). Print. Baltimore Yearly Meeting Summer Camps Ed. Jane Megginson. Baltimore Yearly Meeting, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Blackburn, Kevin. "Recalling War Trauma of the Pacific War and the Japanese Occupation in the Oral Histor y of Malaysia and Singapore." Oral History Review 36.2 (2009). Print. Bohannan, Laura. "Shakespeare in the Bush." Investigating culture: an experiential introduction to anthropology. Ed. Carol L. Delaney. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. 25-31. Print. Bryan, Brooke. "Interview Pr oject." Oral Hist ory Review 37.1 (2010). Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Center for Digital Storytelling storycenter.org, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Chamberlain, Mary. "Diasporic Memories: community, Individual ity, and Creativity--A Life Stories Perspective." Oral History Review 36.2 (2009). Print. Chamberlain, Mary, and Paul Thompson. Narrative and Genre London: Routledge, 1998. Print. Denis, Todd. "StoryCorps: Can Technology Preserve Oral History?" Isay, David. Interview by Todd Denis. jawbone.tv 1 Dec. 2009. Print. Frisch, Michael. "Oral History and Hard Times, A Review Essay." Oral History Review 7.1 (1979): 70-79. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. Grele, Ronald, Envelopes of Sound: The Art of Oral History Chicago: Precedent Publishing, 1985. Print. Grele, Ronald, and Studs Terkel. Envelopes of Sound: The Art of Oral History Chapel Hill: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991. Print. Hirsch, Jerrold. Portrait of America: a Cultural History of the Federal Writers Project Chapel Hill: University of No rth Carolina Press, 2003. Print. Keen, Andrew J. The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture N.p.: Random House, 2007. 4. Print. "Linda Garrettson." Persona l interview. 18 July 2010. 45

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46 Lowenthal, David. The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History N.p.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print. Lynch, David. Interview Project DavidLynch.com, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Meihy, Jose S. "The Radical ization of Oral History." Words and Silences 2.1 (2003). Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Mitchell, Joseph. Joe Gould's Secret N.p.: the University of Michigan, 1965. Print. Morley, Barry. "Fire at the Center: A New Look at Religious Education." Baltimore Yearly Meeting Web. 20 Apr. 2010. One in 8 Million Ed. Andrew DeVigal. New York Times, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. "Oral History Evaluation Guidelines." Oral History Association Oral History Association, Sept. 2000. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Ritchie, Donald A. Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide Oxfird: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print. Ryan, Kathleen M. "I Didnt Do Anything Important: A Pragmatist Analysis of the Oral History Interview." Oral History Review 36.1 (2009). Print. Sloan, Stephen. "Oral History and Hurrica ne Katrina: Reflections on Shouts and Silences." Oral History Review 35.2 (2008). Web. 20 Apr. 2010. "Starbucks third book: or al history collection." Boston Herald 8 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. StoryCorps: the Conversation of a Lifetime StoryCorps, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Talk to the Times: One in 8 Million New York Times, 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. The Vietnam Center and Archive: The Oral History Project. TTU, 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. Walker, Melissa. Southern Farmers and their Stories Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006. Print. Yow, Valeria R. Recording Oral History. Oxford: AltaMira Press, 2005. Print.


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