From the Director: A New School Year and New Initiatives at the Center

Long lines at the coffee bar, parking lots filled beyond capacity, and the return of warm weather to the perpetually foggy Bay Area — all signs that summer has ended and the mad rush of Fall Semester has begun. However, while the rest of campus was a little sleepy during the summer months, Berkeley’s Oral History Center witnessed, if anything, an increase in activity this year!

In June, we were thrilled and honored to welcome the newest historian/interviewer and fourth new interviewer in less than three years: Cristina Kim. Cristina comes to Berkeley from Brooklyn where she was working with StoryCorps doing outreach with community history projects across the U.S. OHC senior editor Linda Norton interviewed Cristina shortly after her arrival and wrote an excellent profile. In the brief time that Cristina has been with us she made a strong impact at our Summer Institute and already has completed her first life history interview. Please join me in welcoming Cristina!

Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to US Congress, was interviewed by OHC in 1972
Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to US Congress, was interviewed by OHC in 1972

Over the summer we launched a major new initiative with the start of  our new podcast series called “Tales from the Campanile.” The series, anticipated to air twice a year, will feature narrated selections from old and new Oral History Center interviews. Given the historic nature of the 2016 presidential election, we chose to highlight  our extensive collection with women in politics for our inaugural podcast season. This first series, which we are calling “From the Outside In: Women in Politics,” is being produced by a team of three Center historians: Cristina Kim, Shanna Farrell, and Todd Holmes, our other new interviewer, who we introduced in our May newsletter. For more information, I invite you to read Todd’s introduction to the podcast series. I’m pleased to report that from what I’ve seen this is going to be a truly excellent (not to mention entirely new) production from the Center that we hope will draw students, teachers, and voters into the Center’s collection to learn ever more about the ever-changing world of politics.

A second new initiative has also just begun and we are happy to announce it here. We continue our long-running partnership with the National Park Service – Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historic Park through a multi-year project aimed at making our Rosie Project interviews more accessible through better search capability and, eventually, streaming of complete interview videos linked with transcripts. This new initiative, which is detailed below by Rosie Project interviewer and OHC Technology Lead David Dunham, promises to put OHC at the forefront of digital oral history. Importantly, this grant requires us to raise “matching funds” so we are asking you, our community, to help us meet our fundraising goals for this project too (again, more on that below).

And, finally, we are on the cusp of announcing several new oral history projects that we expect will get off the ground this fall. I can’t reveal all of them now, but I’m thrilled to report that our work with the Getty in Los Angeles will continue and grow and we will soon be starting a project with San Francisco Presidio Trust to help them document the history of one of the most unique national parks in the nation.  

-Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director, Oral History Center