The IUS Floyd County Oral History Project
Associate Professor of History
The IUS Floyd County Oral History Project enables students enrolled in history classes and student assistants attached to the project to collect and transcribe oral histories from local residents of the community. Floyd County has a rich history that is too often overlooked or ignored by the community and the university. The community and the lives of its residents have been profoundly shaped by regional, national and international events, yet rarely has local history been recorded in a way that allows the relationship to be established for posterity. More important, many people believe that their lives--their day-to-day lived experiences--are not worthy of permanent remembrance. As a result, an invaluable and irreplaceable source of local historical knowledge is lost to present and future generations as the county's older residents pass away. The oral history project is designed to save a part of the community's past and to help record the social history of the county through the voices of its inhabitants. Equally important, the project will help install within the community and the students of IUS recognition of the historical significance of the county and its people.
Each semester a new aspect of the county's local history will be investigated. Possible topics include the effect of the Great Depression, the racial and ethnic diversity of the county and region, economic changes in the county and their effect on local inhabitants, the diversity and nature of church life in Floyd County, and the changing experience of women. In keeping with the teaching mission of IUS, the oral history project will actively involve students enrolled in history class.
The first phase of the project, which began in spring 1999 and continues through spring 2000, has focused on the experiences of local military veterans. The students in Dr. John Findling's U.S. Military History (H220) and Dr. Glenn Crothers's 20th Century World History (H101) classes will be asked to interview local veterans of World War II and the Korean War, and transcribe the veterans' reminiscences. The student assistants hired by the project will help organize the interviews, collect their own oral histories, and will have the responsibility for final editing and binding of the transcriptions.
The second phase of the project will begin in Fall 2000. The Floyd County Oral History Project will tackle the subject of the Great Depression in Southeastern Indiana. Students in Dr. Crothers's U.S. History Since 1865 (H106) and 20th Century World History (H101) classes will interview local community members who lived through the depression. If you are interested in participating or know anyone who might be interested please contact Dr. Crothers at 941-2279 or his email address ACROTHER@IUS.EDU
The project will provide important benefits for students of IUS, for the community and community participants in the project, and for the University. For students, the recording of oral histories is a learning process. Students become active participants in the creation of a primary document--a historical text--about some aspect of their local community. They learn about the history of their community and are actively involved in the documentation of that history. From a pedagogical perspective, oral history and the transcription process enable students to develop critical listening, language and writing skills, requiring them to interpret oral communication and transform it into the written word. Finally, each student conducting an oral interview will develop self-confidence as they represent in a professional fashion both themselves and the university.
For the community, the oral history project promises benefits at many levels. At a personal level, oral history enables the interviewee to relive their history, contribute to its interpretation, and make sense of it in a wider context. In short, each individual interviewed--like the student interviewer--become active participants in the creation of their own history. The transcriptions of the completed oral histories, housed in the Floyd County Library and the IUS library, will become a permanent record of important aspects of the county's history accessible to the entire community. Finally, future genealogists, local historians and professional historians will have easy access to primary documents of great historical significance.
For IUS, the oral history projects promises to draw the school more directly into the community and the lives of its residents. The expertise and knowledge of the history faculty and student interviewers, and the technical and financial resources of the institution will enable the school to become an active participant in the community and the creation and development of its history and culture.
The oral history project is also seeking funds from interested community organizations. In the first phase of the project (spring 1999), the Floyd County Historical Society contributed $500, and the Grant Line Road post of the American Legion, Post No. 28 contributed $200. I am hoping that long-term relationships between the oral history project and interested county organizations can be sustained, particularly as the project grows in subsequent years.
In addition, community groups, which will benefit from and support the collection of oral histories related to specific topics, are being asked to participate in and contribute to the project on a short-term basis. For example, in spring 1999 members of Post 1693 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars participated in the collection of oral histories from local military veterans. In subsequent semesters church organizations, women's groups, neighborhood associations, immigrant and ethnic associations, and genealogical societies will all be approached in subsequent years as the theme of the oral histories to be recorded in each semester changes.
Finally, the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Humanities Council through an Indiana Heritage Research Grant are generously supporting the oral history project.