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About the Center

An interviewer recording an oral history in a recreational vehicle.

Our Background:

The Center for Oral History at Virginia Tech (COH) brings together an interdisciplinary group of faculty, professional staff, students, and community stakeholders to provide leadership in the advancement, creation, use, and preservation of oral history and digital storytelling content, methodologies, research, and scholarship. As an institutional hub facilitating the creation and stewardship of oral history research, content, and scholarship, the COH serves primarily as a research center; but in engaging faculty and students in experiential learning opportunities with diverse groups and persons from within and beyond the university community, it also supports and provides instruction and outreach.

Read more about our vision and mission in our founding charter.

Governance:

Center activities are overseen by a chair chosen by the stakeholders committee and approved by the administrator. The chair/director provides oversight for fiscal, administrative, fiduciary, and programmatic and scholarly functions of the COH.

The Stakeholders Committee guides the COH, reviews its financial and administrative functions, and receives annual reports from the chair as well as internal audit reports. These fiscal oversight responsibilities will be at the strategic level, whereas the administrator and chair/director will be responsible for fiscal oversight and accountability at the operational level. The Stakeholders Committee will meet at least once during each Fall and Spring semester of each academic year.

The Advisory Committee provides recommendations and guidance for scholarly and programmatic affairs. Membership may change over time but the goal is to have a wide representation of voices, perspectives, and research aims.

Our people:

Tyler Walters, Dean, University Libraries

Laura Belmonte, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences 

Stakeholders Committee: 

  • Aaron D. Purcell, Chair, Center for Oral History at Virginia Tech,
  • Ren Harman, Oral History Projects Archivist and Project Manager, VT Stories, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries
  • Barbara DeCausey, Director, Human Research Protection Program
  • Kira Dietz, Assistant Director, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries
  • Lacey Mize Doyle, HRPP Protocol Coordinator, Human Research Protection Program
  • Joe Forte, Coordinator, Athenaeum, University Libraries
  • Jason Higgins, Postdoctoral Associate-Digital Humanities, Center for Humanities
  • Alan Munshower, Digital Collections Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries
  • Katrina Powell, Director, Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies
  • Brett Shadle, Chair, Department of History
  • Jessica Taylor, Oral and Public Historian, Department of History
  • Dave Trinkle, Associate Dean, Community and Culture, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
  • Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, Chair, Department of English

Advisory Committee: 

  • Rachael Carberry, Associate Director of Advancement, University Libraries
  • Tom Ewing, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
  • Nina Ha, Director, Asian Cultural Engagement Center
  • David Hicks, Professor of Education
  • William Ingram, Assistant Dean and Director, Archives and Technology Services, University Libraries
  • Sylvester Johnson, Director, Center for the Humanities
  • Ben Knapp, Director, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology
  • Todd Ogle, Executive Director, Applied Research in Immersive Experiences and Simulations, University Libraries
  • Peter Potter, Director, VT Publishing, University Libraries
  • Karen Roberto, Director, Institute for Society, Culture and Environment
  • Cynthia Unwin, Assistant Professor of Inteprofessionalism, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
  • Sherry Joines Wyatt, Curator, Montgomery Museum of Art and History

 

Frequently asked questions:

Oral history is a recording of personal testimony delivered in oral form. While historians have long interviewed generals and diplomats, oral history also allows ordinary people, and people from marginalized communities, to place their words on the record. Narrators range from formerly enslaved Virginians interviewed in the 1930s, to whiskey distillers in the 2010s. An oral history is not just the story or interview that a narrator provides; it is also the audio file and transcript entrusted to the interviewer. Oral history projects that become rich archival collections require careful planning and execution.

Oral historians often interview people on the edges of the written record. The interviewer should remain aware of how their identity, the identity of the narrator, and the academic associations of the project will create power differentials and ethical quandaries. Special Collections and University Archives does not archive exploitative or predatory interviews and projects. If you plan to work with marginalized groups, such as incarcerated people or sexual assault victims, contact the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) before you begin your project.

In partnership with the Center for Oral History, Special Collections and University Archives provides short-term loans of audio and video equipment to support oral history creation in the field. Equipment can be loaned for up to three days at a time, and includes individual audio recorders and cameras, audio and video kits (with multiple components), and accessories like scanners, mics, headphones, cables, or tripods.

To view our available equipment, visit our Equipment Catalog. Descriptions include links to manuals, lists of what is included in kits or what is supplied with individual items, and our terms of service. Reserved equipment must be picked up at Special Collections and University Archives during our normal hours of operation. If you have questions about borrowing equipment or have trouble making a reservation, please contanct oralhistory@vt.edu.

Further, recorders and microphones are available for checkout at the Studios Technology Lending Desk on the fourth floor of Newman Library and may also be available in your academic department.

Remember to hold interviews in a comfortable and safe environment with minimal noise from air conditioning units, traffic, cell phones, and household appliances. Sound booths on the fourth floor of Newman Library are available for checkout through Studios Technology Lending Desk. Oral historians can also schedule time to record in the Media Den, located on the first floor of Newman Library, through The Athenaeum.

Newman Library has several spaces with equipment to edit oral histories, including the Media Recording Studio, on the second floor, and the Media Den, on the first floor. You may also choose to edit on your own, using free software such as Audacity.

Contact the Center:

Emailoralhistory@vt.edu

Phone: 540-231-6442 

Please consider supporting the Center for Oral History at Virginia Tech.

When you support the Center, the funds will be used in a number of ways to support the work of oral history and oral historians on campus. Your gift, no matter the size can aid in the funding of student employees, transcribing, equipment, and travel to conferences and interviews. 

If you would like more information about how to support the Center for Oral History please contact us at oralhistory@vt.edu, or by calling 540-231-6442.