We are pleased to welcome Amanda Tewes to the Oral History Center. Amanda joins our team as an Historian/Interviewer.
We wanted to get to know her a little better, so we did what we do best: asked her a few questions.
Q: When did you first encounter oral history?
A: I first encountered oral history almost ten years ago as a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton. Oral history was an important part of the coursework for the public history program. After I completed work on my first exhibit about Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and a changing mid-century Orange County, California,, I realized how much the oral histories featured in the show resonated with visitors; the oral histories made history personal and understandable. Oral history has been part of my historical toolkit ever since.
Q: How did you use oral history in your graduate work?
A: Oral history played a key role in my dissertation. Oral history played a key role in my dissertation, Fantasy Frontier: Old West Theme Parks and Memory in California, which highlighted three Old West theme parks in California. I knew I wanted to study Old West theme parks in California, but the more research I did the more I realized that this was as much as story about memory and regional identity as it was about fictional representations of the past and the history of the parks themselves. Historians often have a hard time explaining why someone did something in the past, but conducting oral histories for this project opened a
window into the deep personal and ongoing connections individuals have to these theme parks, as well as helped answer the why of it all–why these parks were created, why they still exist (or don’t), and why they continue to matter.
Q: Which interviewers have been your biggest influences, either in or out of oral history?
A: I listen to a lot of podcasts and talk radio. I appreciate interviewers who are quickly able to build rapport with their guests and who can think on their feet to ask poignant follow-up questions. I think Terry Gross does this really well. She also has an uncanny ability to put her guests at ease and to elicit honest and personal reactions.
Q: What projects are you most excited to work on at the OHC?
A: I am really looking forward to working on the oral history project in collaboration with the Getty Trust. Not only is this a fascinating organization with a storied past, but the project will also bring me back to my art history roots.
Q: What is your dream oral history project?
A: Right now my dream oral history project is one that explores politics and activism in California. Political leadership and organizing in California has and continues to have important implications nationally, and I hope to work on a project that expands the Oral History Center’s impressive collection of interviews about politics in the Golden State.