From the Oral History Center Director: Looking Back on 2015 and Ahead to the Future

When Shelley Stokes, a recently retired librarian at Howard University in Washington, DC., decided to write about the life of her father, Maurice Stokes, Cleveland’s first African-American mayor, she knew she need to develop her interviewing skills. Several years ago she discovered on the Web a summer workshop held annually at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center geared to educate participants in just that.

So when Stokes retired last spring, she decided to sign up for the workshop in Berkeley — and is she glad she did.

“I wanted to learn how to do a better job of conducting interviews, how to convert tapes to CDs, and preserve oral histories,” she wrote to me recently. “I enjoyed connecting with other people, and I received meaningful solutions and was encouraged to purse my projects and dreams.”

Stokes was one of about 40 people from across the country and overseas who attended the August institute, which featured lectures and hands-on guidance to participants about their oral history projects. It was just one highlight of a year at the Oral History Center that saw the office undertake exciting new projects ranging from the history of the freedom to marry movement and economists at the University of Chicago, to the West Coast cocktail project and many individual histories in our University and Community history series.

The chief reason the office continues to attract interest from people like Stokes and benefactors behind the new projects is the sterling reputation for professional excellence OHC has burnished and proven time and again. This work is done by one of the most accomplished staffs in the world. Linda Norton, an award-winning writer, is an outstanding editor with OHC, who tirelessly puts the polishing touches on innumerable oral histories for the Library’s archives each year. David Dunham is a technical marvel who helped spearhead the design and production of OHC’s new website (See Julie Allen is a topnotch editor and administrator who keeps the office humming, while in Paul Burnett, Shanna Farrell, and Martin Meeker the office has the most skilled and intellectually gifted professional interviewers the nation has to offer.

At this time of year, we take a moment to appreciate the road we have traveled, while looking ahead with joy to the challenges ahead. Since we receive very little state funding, and must rely almost exclusively on private donations and grants to do our work, It would be great if you could take a moment at year’s end to remember us in your gift giving thoughts.

Neil Henry
Charles Faulhaber Director of the Oral History Center
The Bancroft Library