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Look Back, Look Ahead: UW–Madison and the Oral History Conference

We’re delighted that Troy Reeves was so willing to write about his recent experience at the Oral History Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Reeves is head of UW–Madison’s oral history program located in the UW Archives, as well as managing editor of the Oral History Review. He is doing great things for our campus and for oral history. Read on to find out more!

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written Troy Reeves
UW-Madison Oral History Program & The Oral History Review

Earlier this month I attended the Oral History Association’s Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City (OKC). At last (unofficial) count, nearly 400 people from all over the country and world descended on OKC’s Skirvin Hotel to talk about the theory and practice of oral history.

At the conference I wore two hats—head of UW—Madison’s oral history program and managing editor of the Oral History Review—in meetings, panels, roundtables, etc. Because of these jobs, I spent most of my time in meetings; I relied on conversations with colleagues either in-between sessions or at receptions to catch up on oral history’s current events. I did, however, co-lead a workshop on “Thinking and Writing Digitally,” where we urged attendees to think beyond just text when envisioning and creating scholarship. I also joined a roundtable with four of my fellow campus oral history program directors where we discussed myriad topics, including the rise of audio/video oral history and the need collaborate with like-minded folks on campus.

Several of my colleagues had the opportunity to attend many sessions and presentations, and recently posted some interesting thoughts in the meeting’s aftermath. First, Steven Sielaff, who served as our Oral History Review’s editorial assistant at the conference, posted several times on the OHR’s Tumblr site, including this one. A colleague from the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) posted all #OHA2013 tweets here.

This year’s conference featured food and foodways as a plenary session, which one of the participants summarized—as well as her overall conference experience—on this blog. Another staff person at the aforementioned SOHP also blogged about his and his colleagues’ experience in OKC. Last (and not least) a piece about the conference, penned by Sielaff, appeared on Friday, October 25, on OUPblog, which is the OHR’s contribution to one of Oxford University Press’ social media’s platform. (Readers might recall the October 11 post, featuring two of the UWDC’s crew.)

Overall, the conference [pun alert] was more than just OK!

The 2014 OHA 48th Annual Meeting will be held here in Madison, at the Concourse Hotel, October 8-12, 2014. This will mark the OHA’s—the country’s primary oral history organization—first visit to Madison. And since the organization has fifty states (and myriad cities within each of them) to choose future sites, it is unlikely the OHA would return to Madison for at least several decades.

This year’s program committee leadership decided on Oral History in Motion: Movements, Transformations, and the Power of Story as the theme. And for a more detailed overview, one can review that group’s call for papers; it advertises a 1/20/2014 deadline for paper, panel, or roundtable proposals.

OHA asked me to lead local arrangements, which I accepted. This means over the course of the next year, the local arrangements committee—comprised of myself, local oral historians, archivists, graduate students, and [wait for it] librarians—will assist the organization in myriad ways. An OHA Annual Meeting volunteer could stuff his/her share of attendee packets, staff the registration desk for a few hours, or lead a dine-around group one evening, to mention just three. Most, if not all, volunteers would receive complimentary registration to the conference, allowing one to hear and see people from throughout Wisconsin, the U.S., and the world present and discuss oral history.

I could say more, but I’ll leave that to the next time I’m given a platform to talk oral history. (And the time after that. And after that. And after—you get the point.)

Want to learn more about oral history at UW–Madison? Contact Troy Reeves here.

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