Tuesday, November 23, 2010

LASTING LEGACIES: GV Friends of Library To Collect Oral Histories

In December, 2008, the Garden Valley Library was awarded a $60,000 grant by the Paul G. Allen Foundation. The grant application stipulated that a third of the award money would go toward historical and cultural education. In the past year, the Friends of the Garden Valley Library have formed a committee to learn about and record oral histories of Garden Valley, to preserve the memories of pioneers who have enriched the community.

The 63rd Pacific Northwest History Conference celebrated the 100th anniversary of Washington women's achievement of the right to vote. This was a perfect venue for the Friends of the Library to become educated on what constitutes oral histories and how to acquire them. To help develop the library's "Lasting Legacies" project, Library Director, Kathy Smith, Board Trustee Jody Mabe, and Friends of the GV Library Georgianna Goetsch and Lu Vincent were partly funded by the grant, to attend the conference.

Academic, oral and independent historians, preservationists, archivists, musicologists, genealogists, community activists and others gathered on November 3-5, at the beautifully restored historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington, for the conference, which revealed new scholarship, current trends and exciting avenues for new research and presentation.

Jody Mabe said, "We all agreed the conference was very good. As far as the oral history component, we picked up some very useful ideas on practical matters we've encountered while doing interviews. For example, we've wondered when the interviews are transcribed whether we had to include every pause or "uh" as someone gathered his or her thoughts. It turns out we can do a verbatim interview but also include a semi-verbatim version, which edits out some of those kinds of remarks. We also learned we need to be more thorough in giving some biographical background on each subject interviewed."

The three-day conference offered many informative sessions pertinent to the Garden Valley "Lasting Legacies" project. "Into The Wilderness" considered what draws women into the wilderness and specifically covered the political, economic, exploratory and recreational contributions of women.

Another session looked at Idaho Women's History Day, and highlighted three research papers by Boise State University students: One on the voice of Basque women in American Radio; another on the influence of May Arkwright Hutton's Idaho experience on the suffrage movement; and farmer, poet and author Agnes Just Reid as sketcher of the agrarian history of the Snake River Valley.

Sessions on Women and Social Change, Cultural and Historical Legacies-Women in the Arts, Interpreting the Life and Work of the Game Changers and History Makers, Women Activists and Newsmakers--all involved the art of gathering personal history.

The basic seminar on oral history clarified the purpose and intent of the interviews as being not so much oral tradition and folklore, as to drawing out the memories of daily, weekly, yearly experience of a single life.

Georgianna Goetsch enthused about the three-day conference, which honored the women who were pioneers in their own right, founding hospitals, schools and libraries, along with creating impressive textiles, writing literature, and adeptly running homes.

There were some excellent audio-visual workshops just for general interest; i.e., the blues singer Lee Morse and some early footage (1920's-30's) of her performances. Jody Mabe said they also had a chance to visit the IMAC museum and the Spokane public Library for ideas.

The Friends of the Garden Valley Free Library have already begun recording oral histories, which will add a rich and integral part of the local history collection at the new library.

1 comment:

  1. I think the "Lasting Legacies" project is wonderful! Kudos to the Library for initiating this.