Oral History Center

The Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center is located at Berkshire Community College’s main campus in Pittsfield, MA.  Created to serve nonprofit, heritage-based organizations, businesses, municipalities, educational institutions (and more!) in the upper Housatonic River valley region.  We welcome your inquires and look forward to assisting with your oral history project.

oraql history interview sound check

Oral History Center – Sound Check

Visit the Oral History Center’s website for more details!

The Center is a place where best practices are used in the collection and dissemination of oral histories. It is a place where best practices and information about technologies and methodologies are communicated to the public and to member organizations.

We serve as a catalyst, via information, education, technical assistance, and limited seed funding, for projects throughout the Heritage Area and at BCC. The Center engages youth and others with all aspects of oral history, including research, interviews, archiving, and digital technologies for doing that work, as well as helping them to explore creative means for communicating what they have learned, including digital multimedia presentations, performances, writing projects, various digital applications, and exhibitions.

Youth Engagement in Oral History

Students are engaged in the heritage of our region, and their own stories too, as the Center collects stories about current events that occur locally. They are engaged in the Center’s work via internships, work study jobs, and classroom based projects, and various other ways that may become available. The Oral History Center helps young and old people to learn, to explore and to communicate together, via people’s stories.

We remain committed to documenting personal narratives of complex and diverse histories and advocating for a collaborative practice of oral history which values and honors people, communities, subjects, and events that otherwise might not be included in the historical record.  Oral history, the acts of questioning, listening, recording, and preserving diverse historical perspectives, remains a powerful model for bridging divides, advocacy, public engagement and greater historical understanding.

Contact us:

Oral History Center
Judith Monachina, Director
Berkshire Community College
Office 215, Field Administration Building
1350 West St, Pittsfield, MA 01201

email: jmonachina-at-housatonicheritage.org

2018-19 Oral History workshops at Berkshire Community College
Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC offers events free of charge

Five oral history workshops will be offered at Berkshire Community College  this academic year, three of them in the fall.

  • A Crash Course in Oral History will be presented by Sam Redman and the UMass Oral History Lab, Oct. 5, 10 a.m.-2p.m.
  • Ethical and Legal Issues and Quandaries in Oral History Practice will be presented by Sarah-Jane Poindexter, of the Massachusetts State Records Advisory Board, Nov. 8, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Oral History and Social Justice is the topic of Alisa Del Tufa, of Groundswell, an oral history project about social justice, and Bennington College. Nov. 13, afternoon time to be announced.

In the spring semester, Oral Historian Annie Valk of Williams College will present a workshop for teachers on How to use Oral History to Connect Students to their Communities.   Finally, the Oral History Center will offer Creating Podcasts with audio recorded interviews.  Dates for the spring workshops will be announced later in the fall.

The Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC is hosting and sponsoring these workshops. The UMass Oral History Lab and Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC are cosponsoring the Oct. 5 event.  For more information, call 413-236-1025.

Community members are invited free of charge.

Details on the fall Oral History Center workshops

  • A Crash Course in Oral History, Oct. 5, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. BCC Main Campus.

This multi-workshop event will feature the UMass Amherst Public History Program and Oral History Lab and is an introduction to oral history theory and methodology. Participants will learn about interviewing techniques, project planning, archiving, oral history ethics, recording technologies, and more.

This event is those who are just beginning oral history projects, and is offered free of charge.  Registration is required; the deadline for registration is Friday, Sept. 21.  Morning coffee/tea and lunch will be provided.

A history professor at UMass, Sam Redman is the organizer of UMass’ Oral History Lab, an initiative to bring together students, scholars, and communities to collaboratively improve oral history projects. Redman is currently involved with an Oral History of Emily Dickinson, with UMass and Amherst College.  While at the University of California, Berkeley,  Redman served as lead interviewer for the Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front Oral History Project and the Japanese American Confinement Sites Oral History Project, both in collaboration with the National Park Service. He launched a project documenting the oral history of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, resulting in over a dozen new interviews.

Two years ago, the Oral History Center at BCC invited Redman to give an introduction to oral history to interested BCC faculty and staff members.

  • Practical Solutions to Legal and Ethical Quandaries for Oral History practitioners, November 8, 10-12 a.m.   BCC South County Center

Legal and ethical issues can complicate projects, and in many cases, there are simple solutions to these problems.  Questions arise such as:  What can you do if you have oral history interviews, tapes or digital recordings, without release forms? What can you do with interviews involving minors? Did an interviewee/narrator reveal a crime during the recording? Can you ethically put an oral history online that was recorded before the age of the internet?  Are you struggling to find balance in both protecting the interviewee/narrator’s privacy yet providing access to interviews?

Participants are invited to bring their oral history legal and ethical questions to this unique workshop.  All are encouraged to bring specific challenges from their experience along with the relevant deeds-of-gift, consent forms, or interview segments for discussion and problem solving.  The discussion will be guided by archivist and oral historian Sarah-Jane Poindexter with attendee participation encouraged. Every effort will be made to find a resolution for each participant’s challenge

Sarah-Jane Poindexter is Roving Archivist for the Massachusetts State Historical Records Advisory Board.   She was Co-Director of the Oral History Center at the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections, and served on the Steering Committee for the Oral History Section of the Society of American Archivists and as an adviser to the Kentucky Oral History Commission. Ms. Poindexter holds a master’s degree in Library Science from Simmons College.

  • Oral History and Social Justice, October 13, (afternoon time and workshop details TBA). BCC Main Campus

 Alisa Del Tufo, visiting professor at Bennington College, founding member of Groundswell, Oral History for Social Change, and founder of the Threshold Collaborative, will present a workshop on Oral History and Social Justice.  The time of this workshop will be announced next week.

Currently, Del Tufo is a visiting faculty member at Bennington College, where she teaches Oral History, Restorative Justice and Youth Impacted by the Criminal Justice System.

She has been teaching at the Marlboro Graduate School of Management and Sustainable Practice, Middlebury and Southern Vermont Colleges.  Groundswell uses grassroots oral history and narrative in creative, effective and ethical ways to support movement building and transformative social change.   Threshold works around the country with a focus on racial and gender justice, most recently focusing on how oral history can be used as a way to generate healing, reconciliation and justice. She has been a Revson, Rockefeller and Ashoka Fellow, and is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary.

Registration is required for all workshops.

For more information or to register, call Judith Monachina, Director, Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College, at 413-236-1025, or send an email to jmonachina@berkshirecc.edu

The Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College is a collaboration of Housatonic Heritage and Berkshire Community College. The Center serves the Berkshire and Northwest Connecticut regions by providing workshops, seminars, and technical assistance, and by connecting people with interests and skills in oral history practice.  www.theoralhistorycenter.org