Three Kenyon experts are part of the core leadership in a new Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA) project.
Professor of Legal Studies and Sociology Ric Sheffield is co-directing this effort to encourage faculty and staff from campuses in the Great Lakes Colleges Association to complete oral history projects. A $394,000 grant from the GLCA will pay for Sheffield and others to share lessons they have learned from involving students in oral history fieldwork.
For almost 25 years, Sheffield and his students have built “The Community Within,” a collection of oral history accounts from the African American community in Knox County. More recently, the digital products coming from that project have grown to look at the experiences of Latinos, Jewish populations and indigenous peoples in rural America.
“In every division and in every discipline at the GLCA colleges, there are opportunities to do this type of work,” Sheffield said. “Community organizations and academics alike have been doing oral histories for a long time. Rural communities, the primary locales in which most of these institutions are situated, are ideal venues for undertaking these projects. Our mission is to focus upon teaching teachers to teach students and their community partners how to do the oral history.”
Sheffield’s co-director is Brooke Bryan, instructor of cooperative education at Antioch College. Bryan and Sheffield will conduct workshops at the 13 schools in the GLCA to encourage and support the development of faculty, student and community collaboration around oral history.
A website for OHLA showcases five sample projects and 10 essays about the logistics and symbolism of doing oral history. Jenna Nolt, Kenyon’s digital initiatives librarian, is writing step-by-step technical manuals on how professors can handle file management and preservation of oral histories and associated multimedia created by students.
Joseph Murphy, director of Kenyon’s Center for Innovative Pedagogy, will use his 14 years of experience with oral history at Kenyon to co-author advice on technology support for oral history projects and on intellectual property. He also will create tutorials for digital platforms and help faculty and staff find the tools that fit their projects’ needs.
Greg Wegner, GLCA’s director of program development, hopes OHLA will become a national model for community-engaged and archives-informed teaching.
“The combined strengths of this team exhibit a strong potential for creating a signature program of lasting impact that will provide opportunities for faculty professional development and offer students an important avenue for experiential education in a liberal arts context,” Wegner said.
In addition to the online resource hub and the workshops on campuses, the grant will fund demonstration projects by GLCA professors and undergraduate researchers who use the online toolkit. OHLA will request proposals this spring for four oral history projects to be done at a GLCA college beginning this summer.