Oral History Symposium 2017

Oral History Symposium 2017

Housatonic Heritage’s Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College is pleased to announce the Oral History Symposium 2017

  • Thursday, May 25, 2017
  • 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • BCC’s South County Center, Main Street, Gt. Barrington, MA
  • Free to attend / Registration is required

Morning coffee and lunch will be provided to all attendees!

Theme:  Your Oral History Project: The essentials to begin, to plan, and to carry it through

At the Oral History Symposium, we will:

  • See a completed project and go through it step by step with its director, Annie Valk, recent Oral History Association President.  Her focus will be on planning.
  • See a skilled interviewer at work and then discuss the steps that go into making a professional and meaningful interview.
  • Learn about safe storage and archives.  How to keep your digital files safe and make them available to others.
  • Hear from someone who has worked with many students on his oral history projects with veterans, and we will learn about ways to engage students in our projects.
  • Have time to share our successes and ideas.

Symposium Details:

  • Session 1:  Planning your project. See a completed project and go through it with its director, Anne Valk, Williams College.  Her focus will be on planning.

For more than 25 years, Anne Valk has worked with community groups to develop oral history projects and her courses have engaged students in community based research exploring topics such as immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, and racial segregation.  At Williams College, she is Associate Director for Public Humanities, and previously worked as Deputy Director at the Center for Public Humanities at Brown University, and Associate Professor in the department of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.  She has published many articles and two award winning books on oral history, community history, and 20th century women’s and African American history.  She is past President of the Oral History Association. (Anne also advises the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College.)


  • Session 2: Interviews. With two experienced interviewers, local historian Cory Hines and historian Frances Jones-Sneed, consider what goes into making a professional and meaningful interview.  oraql history interview sound check

Frances Jones-Sneed is professor of History and former Director of Womens Studies at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and has directed NEH conferences on African American Biography. Former Fellow at W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, she is currently working on a monograph about five African Americans in Rural New England and editing an autobiography of Rev. Samuel Harrison.  She is codirector of the Upper Housatonic African American Heritage Trail, and has conducted many oral history interviews with African American elders. Frances will discuss oral history interview techniques and ideas, including those that she learned at Columbia University

Cory Hines has 30 years human relations experience, in psychological counseling and executive coaching.  She finds that the experience as therapist/coach is both an asset and a liability when it comes to conducting the oral interview.

Cory has found her work on local history and heritage projects – large and small – to be the perfect venue for continually calibrating the oral history interview to find just the right balance  between inquiring with curiosity and probing to get a deeper understanding.  Cory will discuss interview techniques that she learned at the Vermont Folklife Center, and in Mt. Washington, Mass., where she conducted a town-wide oral history project that resulted in a two-hour video entitled “Town Among the Clouds.”


  • Session 3: Archives/Storage/ Access.  Learn about technical and ethical issues around archiving and public access to your oral history projects.  

Robert Cox, head of Special Collections and and University Archives at UMass Amherst, also teaches Archival Access and Use.  Before coming to UMass, he held positions as Head of Manuscripts at the Wiliams L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and keeper of manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society.  He teaches in the Department of History at UMass, and at Simmons College. He has published a history of the American spiritualist movement, the history of photography, and the history of sleep, among another topics.  He will work with the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC and its partner organizations to archive and give access to oral histories.


  • Session 4: Work with Students:Hear from an educator who has worked with many students on oral history projects with veterans, and learn about ways to engage students in our projects.

Paul O’Brien taught science, math and technology and acted as District Tech Director in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District for 34 years. Upon retirement, he began the Veteran Oral History Project as part of the CHP Southern Berkshire Community Coalition.  He has worked with Berkshire Hills Regional and Southern Berkshire Regional district students who interviewed 22 veterans, using Library of Congress protocols.  He has also coordinated several exhibitions with veteran oral histories, and advises the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC.


  • Finally we will have some time to share our successes and ideas.  And we will learn about the Oral History Alliance, which will be launched during this session.


How to register:  Please call Judith Monachina at 413-236-1025, to ask questions and to register.

Registration is limited, so please register soon.