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Introduction to Community-Based Oral History Projects

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 West 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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Introduction to Community-Based Oral History Projects, Benji de la Piedra

This workshop will introduce participants to the outlook and strategies necessary for building and maintaining a successful community-based oral history project. Participants will be asked to articulate their goals and vision (however preliminary!) for a community-based oral history project. They will learn how to refine that vision, design their project’s infrastructure and workflow, and implement that design with flexibility over time, within the constraints of available resources. The workshop will include an introductory training in oral history interviewing technique that emphasizes the interviewee’s relationship to a community. Participants will be introduced to ethical and legal considerations of oral history interviews, and will receive a primer on best practices for archiving and processing interviews in a community-based context. Students will be encouraged to apply lessons imparted not only by the instructor, but also those learned from their own experience.

Benji de la Piedra (OHMA 2014) is an oral historian and writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is documenting the childhood and African American community life of Washington Post journalist Herbert H. Denton Jr. In 2016, Benji was a Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellow at Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. After graduating from OHMA, Benji received the program’s Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize for his elaboration of democratic pluralism and the dialogical encounter in oral history and the writings of Ralph Ellison. Benji recently worked as Oral History Trainer and Volunteer Coordinator for the DC Oral History Collaborative in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and has consulted for community-based oral history projects in New York City and Hot Springs, North Carolina. Along with Mario Alvarez (OHMA 2015), Benji is Co-Founder, Co-Director, and Co-Lead Interviewer of the Columbia Life Histories Project.

*For our oral history workshops, please pay what you can. We suggest $25 for students, recent graduates, or others who are financially constrained, while we suggest that professionals and those with more resources should pay more. All profits from these events go towards our annual merit scholarship for an OHMA students.

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 West 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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