Annual Meeting Roundup: “The History Makers VJ Mixtape: Presenting Traditional Oral History in an Innovative Digital Form” Workshop Preview

This workshop takes place on Saturday, April 13 at 10:00 am-11:30 am at the 2018 OAH Annual Meeting
Solicited by the HistoryMakers
Twitter: #AM2725

• Julieanna Richardson, The HistoryMakers
• Karen V. Hansen, Brandeis University
• Joel Christensen, Brandeis University
• Marcia Walker-McWilliams, Rice University

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The HistoryMakers proposed this workshop as a means to showcase how scholars could use The HistoryMakers Digital Archive to present history in a new and innovative way in the classroom. The HistoryMakers Digital Archive gives the content exposure beyond the classroom as well, and provides a new way of thinking of digital humanities. With nearly 10,000 hours of unique content, the Digital Archive provides high-quality video, and fully searchable transcripts, making it an immeasurable digital source for scholarship and instruction on subjects as varied as: black American foodways, black towns and land ownership, integration and public life, the sciences, the makings of modern music, public health and medical workers, poetry, black theological traditions and religious life, black feminism, migration and the black diaspora, African survivals and the Gullah people, shifts in beauty culture, the black radical tradition, black entrepreneurs, funeral rites, black film and filmmakers, LGBTQ stories, and black Americans in sports.

There has never, in the history of humanities scholarship or African American studies, been a resource that allowed for a corpus of first person video testimony to be searchable in the ways that The HistoryMakers Digital Archive makes possible. In addition, these first person testimonies are unique in their depth and in the breadth of the subjects interviewed—both well-known and unsung. Interviews in the Digital Archive range from 90 minutes to 15 hours in length, and are separated into fifteen categories: Art, Business, Civics, Education, Entertainment, Law, Media, Medicine, the Military, Music, Politics, Religion, STEM, Sports, and Style. Not only does The HistoryMakers Digital Archive present new and unseen content, but also it does so in a way that is easily searchable, with each interview meticulously indexed and curated. At a time when the field of digital humanities is growing rapidly, The HistoryMakers is poised to become a leader in understanding new ways of engaging with history in digital formats. In fact, The HistoryMakers has formed a Digital Humanities Committee made up of representatives from institutions including Yale University, Boston University, University of Iowa, and the University of Pennsylvania to explore new ways of understanding and interpreting the collection.

The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is a resource that can spur a myriad of new areas of study. Linguists will find the archive useful in the study of regional dialects or speech patterns, and business students will find the stories of successful entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, politicians, and others useful for leadership training. The current focus in the academy on inter-disciplinary studies is evident throughout the collection in the stories of HistoryMakers who combine several areas of study to forge new paths of scholarship. Cultural and social anthropologists will find the intensive interviews useful in their explorations into societal norms and values. Researchers can even analyze the methodologies of biography and oral history through The HistoryMakers Digital Archive, which takes both of these disciplines and transforms them. Little known histories, such as that of African American scientists or African American business are well documented in the collection, and can provide a wealth of knowledge for those looking to explore these subjects more deeply.

We hope that attendees come away from the session seeing The HistoryMakers Digital Archive as a must-have resource for their research and scholarship. The Digital Archive is an effective blended learning tool that has value not only in the classroom, but also in public history contexts such as historic sites or in documentary films. We hope that they will also be able to help us explore other uses for the resource that we have not anticipated, and that they will work in partnership with The HistoryMakers to improve the tool, making it even more effective and more palatable to broader audiences. We hope that attendees will see The HistoryMakers Digital Archive as a viable tool for their research and teaching, one that helps advance our understanding of the past and provides a more meaningful, engaged means of instruction.

Dionti Davis, Special Assistant to the Executive Director, The History Makers

Posted: February 15, 2018
Tagged: OAHistorian, OAH Works, Conference, Resources, Previews, AfAm, Public History