DC Oral History Collaborative
The DC Oral History Collaborative was initiated in 2016 as a partnership project of the Historical Society of Washington, DC, HumanitiesDC, with the DC Public Library as the sponsoring agency. The initiative responds to a growing need to preserve unrecorded Washington history that may be lost as communities experience demographic shifts, as older residents pass away, and as stories that once were written now may only live in digital media. The Collaborative aims to document and preserve the stories and memories of residents by making existing oral history recordings more accessible, and giving residents the training and financial resources they need to conduct quality interviews.
If you have an idea for an oral history project in your Washington, DC community, consider applying for a DC Oral History Collaborative community partnership grant.
According to the Oral History Association, oral history is:
“distinguished from other forms of interviews by its content and extent. Oral history interviews seek an in-depth account of personal experience and reflections, with sufficient time allowed for the narrators give their story the fullness they desire. The content of oral history interviews is grounded in reflections on the past as opposed to commentary on purely contemporary events.”
Though staffed by its partner organizations, the Collaborative relies on the ideas and hard work of volunteers: scholars, institutions, community historians, and concerned residents across the city. One of the initial tasks of the program is to identify as many existing DC-related oral history collections as possible and develop a finding guide to 30 of them. Staff will gather data from large archives as well as small institutions with little-known collections. The resulting freely available finding guide will enhance public access to the invaluable recordings already held by dozens of institutions throughout the city.
The Collaborative also offers resources to help develop new oral history projects by the community historians and recordkeepers found in every ward in the city. Churches, civic associations, schools, non-profits and other institutions are invited to apply for community partnership grants. The grants will fund new projects and grantees will receive training in oral history theory and best practices, as well as ongoing support, from the Collaborative’s professional oral historians. In this way dozens of new stories will be collected and added to the city’s growing archive. This archive has multiple homes in institutions across the city. One of the Collaborative’s goals is to create centralized access to these many homes. The partnership grants are not the only way for residents to get involved. The Collaborative will also train individual volunteers (not associated with grant recipients) who will then conduct interviews with some of the city’s most memorable figures.
The DC Oral History Collaborative is a partnership of: