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  • Oral History Methods: Phil Frana
  • Administration, Professional Best Practices: Garrett Wright
  • Administrative Assistant:
  • Video Production:
  • Production Assistant:
  • Photography:
  • Interviews: Wilson Alobuia, Brett Bailey, Lindsey Cason, Kathy Hill, Stefani Johnson, Doug Knight, Casey Mikula, Shannon Miller, Kim Risi, Chip Shaw, Zachary Stallings, Dustin Ward, Clint White Ben Wold
  • Wiki Administration: Thomas Bertram
  • Knowledge Engineer:
  • Wiki authors: Wilson Alobuia, Brett Bailey, Lindsey Cason, Kathy Hill, Stefani Johnson, Doug Knight, Casey Mikula, Shannon Miller, Kim Risi, Chip Shaw, Zachary Stallings, Dustin Ward, Clint White Ben Wold

Class Syllabus: Oral History and the Study of Memory (Spring 2011)

  • Instructors: Phil Frana, Garrett Wright
  • Class Meets: McAlister 303, Tuesday & Thursday, 9:25 am-10:40 am

Link to Virtual Classroom on HCOL

Find Phil Frana at 303A McAlister Hall or in the Honors Ethnography Lab. Appointments made in advance are always welcome. Email Phil at His HCOL username is Phil. Call him at (501) 450-3498. Garrett Wright's HCOL username is gww490.

Course Description

What does it mean to be an Arkansan? How do we relate to others, and how can this influence our encounter in small talk and formal conversation? In this class we will prepare ourselves to conduct an oral history project encompassing some aspect of Arkansas in transition to the twenty-first century. Prior classes have focused on the bringing of the Clinton Library to Little Rock and the development of the Downtown River Market. Want to do something hands-on next semester? Make history by listening to the stories people tell? Students will actively engage in creating and administering the project. Learn the theory and practice of oral history!

This course is divided into several overlapping areas of study: basic ethnographic fieldwork and historical analysis; approaches to memory; instructional and interpretive strategies; interviewing, editing, and documenting; folk study; archives and documentation; public uses; oral history and new digital media; and the new oral history of commerce and technology.

Textbooks (not required)

  • Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless, eds., History of Oral History: Foundations and Methodology (AltaMira, 2007). ISBN 0759102309.
  • Deborah Escobar, Creating History Documentaries: A Step-By-Step Guide to Video Projects in the Classroom (Prufrock Press, 2001). ISBN 1882664760.
  • Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide, 2nd ed. (Oxford UP, 2003). ISBN 0195154339.

Aims, Outcomes, and Assessment

This class is an active collaboratory practicing oral history methods, including basic ethnographic and historical principles; approaches to memory; instructional and interpretive strategies; interviewing editing, and documenting; folk study; public uses; and cybermedia. This course focuses on the collection and analysis of oral narratives as evidence of the past. In addition to completing our work, we will examine both practical and theoretical material regarding the challenges and possibilities of oral history. Our aim is to study oral narrative and oral history in several contexts for use by scholars in many disciplines. The course's central theme is the representation of democratic beliefs as applied to oral history in contemporary Arkansas.

In addition to reading assignments and discussion, you will produce for this class research-grade oral histories with associated notes and appendices and -- as a group project -- make significant contributions to our fund of public knowledge about some aspect of the recent past. You cannot pass this course without submitting all assignments. The breakdown in assigning a final grade will be determined as follows: group participation (25%), individual project (25%), group project (25%), and individual class presentations & assignments (25%).


  • research plan: pursue an individual oral history project by conducting interviews, transcribing, and editing the source media (individual project)
  • contribute to the class project by conducting interviews, transcribing, and editing the source media (group project)
  • write weekly wiki entries (class assignment)
  • give an overview of an oral history project or collection (class assignment)
  • show mastery the principles (class presentation)
  • study non-verbal cues (class assignment)
  • develop a common thematic set of questions for project interviews (group project)
  • read and critique an existing Honors College Oral History transcript (class assignment)
  • in-class critiques of oral history interviews (class assignment)
  • improve your interviewing skills and evaluate your own performance (class presentation)
  • practice interviewing on each other and on mystery guests (class assignment)
  • reports from the field (group & individual projects)

Final Presentation: Your final presentation will be delivered in the form of transcript and video podcast. All final presentations will be produced with appropriate editing software. (group project)

Grading, Attendance

Three or more unexcused absences will automatically result in a lowered grade. Missing a class in which you are the assigned leader will also result in a lowered grade. Grading scale:

Potential realized

  • A – Superior contributions befitting the caliber of a UCA Honors scholar.

Potential not yet realized

  • B – Contributions acceptable, but lacking clarity, consistency, or continuity. Contributions brief; class attendance less than stellar.
  • C – Fails in commitment to make acceptable contributions in one or more areas.
  • D – Fails in commitment to make contributions in many or nearly all areas.
  • F – Systematically fails to attend, share ideas, read, or write.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is defined here as the "stealing of passages either word for word or in substance, from the writings of another and publishing them as one's own." You are plagiarizing when you present an idea or interpretation that you did not originate without acknowledgment. You are plagiarizing when you copy and incorporate someone else's work into your own without setting it off with quotation marks and identifying the source. You are also plagiarizing when you borrow from someone else's work and simply change a few words before adding it to your own work. Plagiarism is a serious violation of academic ethics and constitutes grounds for disciplinary action (refer to your UCA Student Handbook in this regard).

Other Student Conduct

Note also the general standards for student conduct, including the university's sexual harassment policy, in your current student handbook. The University of Central Arkansas adheres to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you need an accommodation under this Act due to a disability, please contact the UCA Office of Disability Services, (501) 450-3613.

Ethnography Lab Information

Comprising computers, camcorders, DVD camcorders, and digital voice recorders, the Ethnography Lab is located inside the Forum in McAlister Hall, where it shares space with the Honors College's Publications Office. The Ethnography Lab supports student, staff, and faculty projects that involve interactions with and observations of people. The equipment is available for any course-related project that involves interviewing, filming, or photographing human activities. The lab's computers have user-friendly video and sound editing software as well as Microsoft Office and internet access. When not in use by the Publications Office, scanners are also available.

Students, faculty, and staff may check out equipment on a first come, first serve basis throughout the semester and for longer periods during summer and holidays. To check out equipment or use the lab facilities, please contact Adam Frank at or (501) 450-3486.

Class Schedule/Assignments

Assignments indicated in brackets thus []. Assignments are due on dates listed.

  • January 13 (Th) - What is Oral History and Who Does It?
  • January 18 (T) - The Task of Oral History
  • January 20 (Th) - Oral History Projects and Collections [pick a oral history collection and be prepared to describe it]
  • January 25 (T) - Practice Interviewing on Each Other [wiki entry due]
  • January 27 (Th) - Follow-up on Practice Interviews
  • February 1 (T) - Critique an Existing Interview [critique due]
  • February 3 (Th) - Practice Interview with Mr. or Mrs. X
  • February 8 (T) - Research Design: Elites versus Ordinary People
  • February 10 (Th) - Develop a Common Set of Project Questions [wiki entry due]
  • February 22 (T) - Ethics/Impact of Oral History on Individual & Community/Accessibility [wiki entry due]
  • February 24 (Th) - Video Editing Basics
  • March 1 (T) - Video Editing Basics
  • March 3 (Th) - Ethnography and Folklore [wiki entry due]
  • March 8 (T) - Transcription exercise
  • March 10 (Th) - Watch Interview & Edit a Transcript [critique due]
  • March 15 (T) - Guest Speaker: Jimmy Bryant on UCA Archives Oral Histories [wiki entry due]
  • March 17 (Th) - Personal research plans [personal research plan due]
  • March 22 - Spring Break
  • March 24 - Spring Break
  • March 29 (T) - Reports from the field
  • March 31 (Th) - Reports from the field [transcript due]
  • April 5 (T) - Reports from the field
  • April 7 (Th) - Reports from the field [wiki entry due]
  • April 12 (T) - Reports from the field
  • April 14 (Th) - Reports from the field
  • April 19 (T) - Reports from the field
  • April 21 (Th) - Reports from the field [wiki entry due]
  • April 26 (T) - Reports from the field
  • April 28 (Th) - [all transcript & portfolios due]
  • May 1-May 5 - Final Examination Interview

Organizations & Publications

H-Net Discussion Networks

Oral History Bibliography


  • James Clifford, “Partial Truths,” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, eds. James Clifford and George E. Marcus, University of California Press, 1990.
  • Robert Darnton, “Writing News and Telling Stories,” Daedalus 104 (Spring 1975): 175-94.
  • Micaela Di Leonardo, "Oral History as Ethnographic Encounter," Oral History Review 15 (1987): 1-20.
  • Ronald J. Grele, "Listen to Their Voices: Two Case Studies in the Interpretation of Oral History Interviews," in Envelopes of Sound,pp. 212-41.
  • Mary Louise Pratt, “Fieldwork in Common Places,” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, eds. James Clifford and George E. Marcus, University of California Press, 1990.
  • Carl Wilmsen, "For the Record: Editing and the Production of Meaning in Oral History," Oral History Review 28 (Winter-Spring 2001): 65-86.
  • Valerie Yow, "'Do I Like Them Too Much?': Effects of the Oral History Interview on the Interviewer and Vice-Versa," Oral History Review 24 (Summer 1997): 55-79.


  • Anna Green, "Returning History to the Community: Oral History in a Museum Setting," Oral History Review 24 (Winter 1997): 53-72.


  • Lynne Hamer, "Oralized History: History Teachers as Oral History Tellers," Oral History Review 27 (Summer-Fall 2000): 19-40.
  • Grace Huerta and Leslie Flemmer, "Using Student-Generated Oral History Research in the Secondary Classroom," Clearing House 74 (2000): 105-10.
  • Barry A. Lanman and George L. Mehaffy, Oral History in the Secondary School Classroom, Oral History Association, 1989.
  • Charles R. Lee and Kathryn L. Nasstrom, eds. "Practice and Pedagogy: Oral History in the Classroom," Oral History Review 25 (Summer-Fall 1998): entire issue, 1-117.
  • N.C. Marchart, "Doing Oral History in the Elementary Grades," Social Education 43 (1979): 479-80.
  • G.L. Mehaffy, "Oral History in Elementary Classrooms," Social Education 48 (1984): 470-2.
  • Fay D. Metcalf and Matthew T. Downey, Using Local History in the Classroom, American Association for State and Local History, 1982.
  • Laurie Mercier and Madeline Buckendorf, Using Oral History in Community History Projects, Oral History Association, 1992.
  • David L. Moore, "Between Cultures: Oral History of Hmong Teenagers in Minneapolis," Vietnam Generation 2 (1990): 38-52.
  • Charles T. Morrissey, "Oral History Interviews: Does Age Make a Difference?" Oral History Association Newsletter 35 (Fall 2001): 11.
  • John Neuenschwander, "Oral History in the High School Classroom," Oral History Review 3 (1975): 59-61.
  • Irma M. Olmedo, "Junior Historians: Doing Oral History with ESL and Bilingual Students," TESOL Journal (Summer 1993).
  • A. Sears, "Enriching Social Studies with Interviews," History and Social Science Teacher 25 (1990): 67-71.
  • Thad Sitton, et al., Oral History: A Guide for Teachers and Others, University of Texas Press, 1983.
  • Margaret Sullivan, "Into Community Classrooms: Another Use for Oral History," Oral History Review 2 (1974): 52-8.
  • Eliot Wigginton, "Foxfire Grows Up," Harvard Educational Review 59 (February 1989): 24-49.

Business & Technology Studies

  • John Bodnar, "Power and Memory in Oral History: Workers and Managers at Studebaker," Journal of American History 75 (1989): 1201-21.
  • Thomas Dublin, "Gender and Economic Decline: The Pennsylvania Anthracite Region, 1920-1970," Oral History Review 27 (Winter-Spring 2000): 81-98.
  • Andrew J. Dunar and Dennis McBride, Building Hoover Dam: An Oral History of the Great Depression, University of Nevada Press, 2001.
  • Laurie Graham, On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu: The Japanese Model and the American Worker, Cornell University Press, 1995.
  • Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World, University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
  • Michael Hoberman, "High Crimes and Fallen Factories: Nostalgic Utopianism in an Eclipsed New England Industrial Town," Oral History Review 28 (Winter-Spring 2001): 17-40.
  • Roger Horowitz and Rick Halpern, "Work, Race, and Identity: Self-Representation in the Narratives of Black Packinghouse Workers," Oral History Review 26 (Winter-Spring 1999): 23-43.
  • Thomas E. Leary and Elizabeth C. Sholes, From Fire to Rust: Business, Technology, and Work at the Lackawanna Steel Plant, 1899-1983, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 1987.
  • Katrina Mason, Children of Los Alamos: An Oral History of the Town Where the Atomic Age Began, Twayne Publishers, 1995.

Rural Studies

  • Michael A. Gordon, "Oral Documentation and the Sustainable Agriculture Movement in Wisconsin," Public Historian 11 (Fall 1989): 83-98.
  • Lu Ann Jones and Nancy Grey Osterud, "'If I Must Say So Myself': Oral Histories of Rural Women," Oral History Review 17 (Fall 1989): 1-23.
  • Melissa Walker, "Calling the Men Out from the Boys: Concepts of Success in the Recollections of a Southern Farmer," Oral History Review 27 (Summer-Fall 2000): 1-18.


  • John Bodnar, "Generational Memory in an American Town," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 26 (1996): 619-37.
  • John Neuenschwander, "Remembrance of Things Past: Oral Historians and Long-Term Memory," Oral History Review 6 (1978): 45-53.


  • Joseph Romney, "Legal Considerations in Oral History," Oral History Review 1 (1973): 66-76.
  • John Neuenschwander, "Oral History and the Law: An Update," Oral History Association Newsletter 31 (Winter 1997): 4-6.

Selected Oral History Websites

Entering the main site from the welcome page, the foremost two focuses of this project are apparent: darkness and New York. The links that descend the site's hierarchy are integrated into a silhouetted skyline of the city. The black background and white text indicate a specific detail that is confirmed by personal and official accounts. "Luck, goodwill and a brilliant moon saved New York from disaster. . ."

Featured are sections devoted to each of the two blackouts ("The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965" and "The Summer of '77"); news articles regarding recent blackouts and their hearkening to the '65/'77 blackouts; a timeline of the blackouts and their major events; and a summary of the blackouts' impact on the electric industry. Other features of the site include a forum to host personal accounts of the events, a archive of sources, and a perspectives section. Though the site is not specifically devoted to it, information can be found regarding the July 1999 blackout as well.

My favorite part of the site is the "timeline". It is a very straightforward chronicle of the blackouts, as well as some precursing and postcursing factors. Timeline entries for each of the blackout years ('65 and '77) are further broken down. It cites the differences between each of the two blackouts, and gives statistics regarding both.

MouseSite is devoted to the history of human-computer interactions, mostly through the study of the creation and evolution of the computer mouse, hyperlinks, and other developments within computer science. MouseSite contains an extensive online archive, including interviews, videos, and the Engelbart Papers (which outline the work of Douglas Engelbart and his colleagues as they invented the computer mouse). The site hopes to “tap into the community memory” of those involved in the development of human-computer interactions, especially those working in computer science and communication.

MouseSite has multiple pages on which it asks for information about the persons involved, the devices created, the life of the Engelbart group, and the wider historical context. It seems as if the site was previously more convenient, and answers/information could simply be posted to these pages in the form of a comment. Since 2005, however, one must send an e-mail to the Stanford University Libraries to share any information. Because of this, the website has less information for the average person than may be preferable.

There is also a section of the website that provides links to other sites pertaining to human-computer interactions. These include the Bootstrap Institute, which was conceived by Engelbart himself; documents concerning the creation of the Xerox Star; and, an article about the “death and metaphoric rebirth of the world in media and of media in the universal medium.” The majority of these links do not go to real websites anymore, however, limiting the effectiveness of the “Links” portion of MouseSite.

Downtown Revitalization, Sustainability, Smart Growth, and Historic Preservation Resources

Barbara Wells introduces the term "infill development," which she describes to be the creative use of vacant or underused land and buildings. She cites some of the most common design principles to sucessfully infill develop in an urban or small-town setting. One of which is to make downtown areas more pedestrian-friendly. Another method would be to reclaim blighted or abandoned areas and connect these areas to mainstream transportation and utilities services. Still another method would be to provide open, kid-friendly spaces for recreation.

Wells then begins evaluating various urban neighborhoods' and small cities' revitalization initiatives in this manner: 1)Features of the area 2)Challenges the area faced 3)Turning point towards revitalization 4)Approach taken to revitalize 5)Results of the revitalization. One example of this systematic process would be the Kinzie Industrial Corridor in Chicago. Features of the area include direct access to three different highways and the Chicago El and bus lines. It used to be a thriving commercial center. The challenge was to improve the area's appearance because it took a hit during the 1968 (race?) riots. The turing point was when Chicago began bringing jobs and residential tracts into the area. Chicago's approach was multi-faceted, but centered on acquiring former manufacturing parcels that adjoins cites the city already owns. Results of the project include new manufacturing centers, like a seafood distribution plant, a greenhouse, and an equipment maker. These busineses create jobs and foster further growth.

Not only is Wells concerned with high density urban areas, but also small towns. One example of a small-town that was revitalized would be Peterborough, New Hampshire. This town of 5500 simply had very little activity--there was very little downtown to speak of. A group called Downtown 2000 committed themselves to revitalizing Peterborough. After several projects, including pedestrian-friendly walkways and streetscaping, the area began to have some vitality. Some rundown warehouses, for example, were converted into the Depot Square Commercial area.

The Washington State Downtown Revitalization is a project that outlines everything from the important (how to organize and begin downtown revitalization) to the practical (sample budgets) to the paltry (public relation ideas such as logos). The plan employs the Main Street Approach, a program so widely used-US numbers include 40 states and 1,2000 cities-that the name is trademarked.

These high numbers imply that the Main Street Approach must be working, which begs the question of how the program is set up. In short, it is centered upon four core aims: organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring (4). Underlying these four points lies the notion of community. The literature for the Washington project includes a list of 11 reasons for why downtowns are significant-naturally, all relate back to fostering community.

The WSDR project also touches on many other issues within this 67-page document; topics include a starting checklist, an operating statement, advice on locating financial support, potential benefits, a format for efficient board meetings, job descriptions for project members, and even a sample press release. If readers are not yet convinced of imminent downtown success stories, the article concludes with a section entitled "75 Great Ideas for Downtown," which includes gems such as Number 41: "Save an endangered building!" and Number 56: "Hold a street dance!" Hidden within the list lies number 10: "Join the National Main Street network. The current cost is $195 per year."

This article is about revitalizing smaller communities’ downtown revitalization. In the first chapter Martin Shields and Tracey Farrigan explain that no community is too small or rundown to start revitalization. The only problem with smaller communities is that there is a smaller budget to work with. Revitalizing downtown will help the community attract jobs, shopping, and entertainment.

There are specific steps to the process of revitalization. The first is to set up a committee; it is important to include the community. This group should hold meetings regularly to keep on track with the revitalization plans. This article explains how a community understands its strengths, weaknesses, and places of opportunities. Create a plan of priorities and stick to this plan.

This article not only gives a clear direction that smaller communities can take on the revitalization process, but it also gives helpful hints to larger communities. I feel like Arkansas is one large small community. Even though there is a lot of diversity, even large cities (such as Little Rock) can have a small town atmosphere. Also, the authors gave an appendix with further readings on the subject. This article is a helpful source to anybody wanting to understand the process of revitalization.

Most people think they know what streetcars are; the modern bus's out-of-date predecessor. But they are much more. In America prior to World War II, they were recognized as a tool used for shaping cities and connecting an urban populace with itself. These typically privately funded streetcars provided cheap, efficient transportation to inner city visitors, and ensured that the businesses which flocked around the route had a steady customer base.

After World War II, streetcar usage in the U.S. began a sharp decline for several reasons. While after economic hard times caused usual routine maintenance to be deferred for extended periods of time, their old design as well is at fault. Previously, these had been built in the middle of the road in cities, requiring people to get on and off it at the center of traffic and taking up much space. With the rise of automobiles and the post-war economic boom, suburban flight was also a problem that the system was not ready to handle. The 'coup de tat', however, was performed by a corporation called National City Lines. This corporation's only mission was to buy up as many deteriorating streetcar operations as it could, and systematically dismantle them and replace them with buses. It is no wonder then that the backers of National City Lines were Standard Oil, General Motors, and Firestone Tires.

Today, as inner-cities have fallen apart, a variety of transportation approaches have been looked into to attempt to revitalize downtown districts across America. Although their have been advances in light railway systems lately, their disruptively large physical size, required high speeds, and sheer expense prevent them from being viable for most communities. Instead, these have been relegated to transit for in and out of large cities such as Dallas and Denver. Trolley-styled buses have been put into use in many places(even Little Rock), but the main problem is that the facade is blatant—people(and more importantly tourists) recognize that they are buses and, for better or worse, reject the idea of riding them due to popular social stigma.

As each attempt for smaller cities failed, or at best did not reach its expected mark, the streetcar then finally has begun to make a resurgence in its only true market: inner cities. Small, mid, and even sometimes large-size cities have begun to rediscover the benefits of having charming mass transit again. Smaller and less obtrusive than light rails, and many times cheaper as well, European style streetcars at the same time dodge the stigma attached to buses and have a higher rider-capacity to boot. In Portland alone, a transit initiative has wrought a 5-mile streetcar circuit that connects students at a university to shop owners downtown to families in a nearby neighborhood to workers in the city's major hospital to commuters on the light rail system to visitors at the local entertainment and cultural spots. Professionals, students, kids, and tourists all ride in the same vehicle, interconnecting the entire community to itself. The success in Portland has been repeated over and over in America in such cities as Tampa, FL and Atlanta, GA as well. The reason is that communities and businesses have finally come to terms with the fact that friendly, effective mass transit is the bloodline of a healthy downtown economy. As was known in the early parts of the 20th century, streetcars tie customers in or around the city to its shops and promote interest in inner-city housing, causing the cycle to grow and repeat itself.

The only hurdles to developing a streetcar strategy are obvious. For one, though they may be cheaper than light rail systems, they are still very expensive, especially at the start up. Millions upon millions of early investment into a major project like this is risky business; the only way to get through this is to promote local business initiative, and, if necessary, apply for federal aid from the Federal Transit Administration. The latter relates to the second problem in that as every city and situation is unique, so is every streetcar plan complicated and different. As its job is to connect as many people to as many places as effectively as possible, plots to create these circuits can very quickly become frustrating and difficult to organize. The FTA appreciates communities taking the initiative in the early stages though, and looks favorably upon these projects when considering funding.

While the FTA is helpful, others think the federal government can do more to help local transit ideas bloom into fruition. At the time of the writing, Congress was considering creating a streetcar program within the FTA, expanding federal funding to small projects, and easing the regulations and criteria to apply for such funds. If such legislation passed, there would surely be a boom in city transit systems in the future, and the engineering firm HDR would be ready to handle those projects.

Other Mediawiki Memory Projects

Class Wiki

Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.