Advanced Oral History Summer Institute
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About the Institute

The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) at the University of California, Berkeley, is offering a one-week advanced institute on the methodology, theory, and practice of oral/video history. This will take place on the UC Berkeley campus from August 11-15, 2014. This year’s keynote speaker will be Robin Nagle, Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies at New York University.

Designed for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, university faculty, and independent scholars using oral history interviews as part of a research project, the institute is also open to museum and community-based historians who are engaged in oral history work. The goal of the institute is to strengthen the ability of its participants to conduct research-focused interviews and to consider the special characteristics of interviews as historical evidence in a rigorous academic environment. We will devote particular attention to how oral history interviews can broaden and deepen historical interpretation situated within contemporary discussions of history, subjectivity, memory, and memoir. This year the SI will be structured around the life cycle of an interview. Each day will focus on a component of the interview, including foundational aspects of oral history, project conceptualization, the interview itself, analytic and interpretative strategies, and research presentation and dissemination. Sessions will include oral history theory, legal and ethical issues, project planning, oral history and the audience, anatomy of the interview, recording, digital humanities, editing, fundraising, and analysis of successfully completed projects.

Participants will also work throughout the week in small discussion groups led by faculty. Institute members will be given readings, a list of other participants, and the week’s schedule prior to the institute. Most meals must be arranged separately and on-campus housing may be arranged through ROHO. In addition to on-campus rooms, this website offers many options for lodging in the Berkeley area. The institute is limited to forty participants and applications will be accepted up to May 1. Acceptances will be made on an on-going basis. In previous years, we have reached capacity as early as the end of March, so we urge you to apply as soon as possible; see on-line application below.

The cost of the five-day institute is $950.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide financial assistance to participants. ROHO is a soft money office of the university, and as such receives precious little state funding. Therefore, it is necessary that the Summer Institute be a self-funding program. We encourage you to check in with your home institutions about financial assistance, as in the past we have found that most have budgets to help underwrite some of the cost associated with attendance. We will provide receipts and certificates of completion as required for reimbursement.

We do provide some of your meals, including continental breakfast each day. We are currently exploring options for on campus housing (in addition to the affordable options already circulated) and will let you know once that is finalized.

We are confident that the program we put together will help enrich your education and experience with oral history; and we are very proud of the group of scholars and practitioners we have assembled to make this summer's institute a memorable one!

Please contact Shanna Farrell (sfarrell@library.berkeley.edu) with any questions.

Submit your application here.


About the Regional Oral History Office
The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO), a division of The Bancroft Library, documents the history of California, the nation, and the interconnected global arena. ROHO produces carefully researched, audio/video-recorded and transcribed oral histories and interpretative historical materials for the widest possible use.

Since its inception in 1954, ROHO has carried out interviews in a variety of major subject areas, which include: politics and government; law and jurisprudence; arts and letters; business and labor; social and community history; University of California history; natural resources and the environment; and science, medicine, and technology. Interviews have been used as source material for monographs, books, articles, stage productions, radio programs, video and film documentaries, websites and blogs, and dissertations and theses. ROHO has conducted over 4,000 oral histories, which totals tens of thousands of interview hours. Nearly every interview that has been transcribed is available for the public to read on the ROHO website.
Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of the events central to their lives and to the broader world. The interviews are transcribed, lightly edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees, who may augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and corrected transcripts are printed and bound, often with photographs and illustrative materials. Archival copies are placed in The Bancroft Library and with the sponsoring agency, if any. The Bancroft Library also houses the original audio and video recordings, many of which can be accessed in the library’s reading room. ROHO's volumes are deposited in more than 700 manuscript libraries worldwide and catalogued on two globally accessible library data bases, RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) and OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) along with the University of California's on-line catalogs Melvyl and OskiCat. Many of the individual interviews and the larger interview projects augment the paper archival collections of The Bancroft Library, including important collections on the Sierra Club, Kaiser Industries, and the Free Speech Movement.

In addition to conducting interviews and producing transcripts, ROHO historians are productive scholars who publish their oral history-based research in the field’s top journals and academic presses; moreover, they regularly contribute to newspapers and blogs and are featured on radio programs and video documentaries. ROHO historians also actively participate in the teaching mission of the university. Along with regularly speaking at conferences and organizing symposia, ROHO staff host an annual advanced oral history institute each summer which attracts scholars, public historians, and others from around the world interested in learning oral history methodology. Nearly 500 people have attended the institute since it began in 2002.

Oral history at The Bancroft Library had its beginnings in the work of the nineteenth-century historian of the American West for whom the library is named, Hubert Howe Bancroft. Bancroft recognized that missing from his vast collection of books, journals, maps, and manuscripts on western North America were the living memories of many of the participants in the development of California and the West. In the 1860s he launched an ambitious project to interview and create biographies of a diverse group of Californians. The resulting volumes of “Dictations” continue to provide valuable primary source material for historians.


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