“Everybody Was There” An Interview with Brittany Smith ’17

(Photo of  Brittany Smith and Lydia Belden in front of Washington Monument. Photo owned by Lydia Belden) When we think about the Muhlenberg Community and who is represented within that, it’s important not to forget those that came before us. Young alumni are a powerful resource are a window into life outside of the ‘berg. Our class put out a call to community members via social media and received a handful of respondents. One of these was Brittany Smith, an alumnus from the class of 2017. Immediately recognizing Brittany’s name, I reached out to her within the week via email to see how she would feel about being interviewed for the archive. Brittany was an enthusiastic participant who became an awesome narrator to work with. I had to conduct the interview via phone, as she no longer lives in the Allentown area. But I actually didn’t mind the effect that the telephone quality added our interview. I thought it better illustrated the far-reaching efforts of forming a holistic archive. This being my second interview, I was somehow simultaneously more confident and more apprehensive. Having gone through this before, I knew what to expect, and yet I had now subconsciously set a higher stander for myself as an interviewer. I wanted to scale back on the dead space that would be present on the recorder. I also wanted to be cognizant of the order in which I was asking the questions and that I was actually listening to the answers. Last time, I struggled with both of these. I felt not only did active listening enhance the relevance of my follow-up questions, but it also enabled my to go off-script and opt for better, more specific questions that I hadn’t necessarily thought of. For my next interview, I need to work on quieting my urge to interject when the narrator is talking. Even the affirmative “Mm Hmm” and “Yeah” is so second nature that I don’t even realize that I’m doing until I am writing the transcription and have to copy and paste “gotcha” twenty times. Thanks again, Brittany! #DomainsResist http://archivesandactivism.rebeccamackillop.bergbuilds.domains/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Oral-History-Assignment-2.mp3 Powered by WPeMatico

Muhlenberg’s Dr. Kimberly Heiman: Women’s March on D.C

After speaking with Dr. Kimberly Heiman briefly about her family’s trip to the Women’s march in D.C, I felt as if faculty inclusion should certainly be a story told in our Muhlenberg Protest archive. Following up and reaching out to Dr. Heiman to see if she would be willing to have her story told in the archive proved to be worth it. Our interview together was certainly illuminating in a variety of ways. We touched upon both the Women’s march and the Science March, discussing the way her family approached the march and their participation. Dr. Heiman attended the march with her husband, Dr. Adam Clark, and two children, Hudson and Adrienna. https://docarchivesandactivism.anthonyfillis.bergbuilds.domains/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Dr_Kimberly_Heiman_Oral.mp3 Through the interview I learned much more about the march, as well as the act of actually performing oral history. Regarding the march, some topics I found illuminating were our discussions on the train stations being shutdown due to over crowding. With thousands of patrons trying to board the trains, certain platforms had to shut down, leaving the rest stuck in an overcrowded train platform. What was surprising to me was, according to Dr. Heiman’s account, people remained civil during this test of patience. This can be found at both (01:33-03:09), (29:37-30:00). Another detail that I thought was particularly interesting, and something that wouldn’t get told outside of an oral history settings, was Dr. Heiman explaining her children’s lack of interest in the march, taking into account their ages of 5 & 7 years old. To appease their children’s want for some more excitement, the family decided to go ice skating at a near by skating rink. This seemingly passing detail provides interesting insight as to what it means to march with family. Sometimes in a very practical sense, logistical choices have to be made to allow for the marching family to be a happy family. Dr. Heiman notes her children since asking to go back to D.C to go ice skating, providing them with a memory that will certainly last for years. Despite their memory not being tied directly to the protest itself, the memory of attending the march should stick with them, creating meaning for them later in life. This can be found at (08:11-10:10). Moving beyond the details of the information shared, I found this run at an oral history interview felt very successful. The practice of active listening felt more engaging in this interview – more so than the previous interviews I’ve recorded. A key signifier for me was not as heavy of a reliance on my list of questions and engaging more with follow up questions and comments. I feel as if Dr. Heiman shaped the interview’s path with her details, rather than I shaping it with questions. I felt as if it was easier to be an active listener in this particular interview over previous attempts. I credit a lot of this dynamic to Dr. Heiman however, in that she spoke very fluently and her ideas flowed naturally, were concise and […]

Jessica: Women’s March Reflections with Natalie Sams

[Audio to be attached] Interviewing Natalie Sams about her experience at the 2017 Womens March showed me that I am already more comfortable with conducting interviews. The long pauses that happened in my first interview were not present, because I was more confident in my questions. Maybe I should have responded to Natalie’s answers more, and asked more in depth questions about what she was talking about, but I was confident in the list of questions that I had. I did reorder a few questions, but I was prepared enough ahead of time to know what questions I already wanted to elaborate on. It was already helpful that I knew that Natalie went to the march with her mother instead of with Muhlenberg, so I had specific questions about how her experience might have been different if she had done the opposite. I think that I might have asked too many questions, because the interview is just over an hour long. However, I did not want to cut any questions because I felt that they were all important. We did take two short breaks during the interview, and before restarting for the last time, I asked Natalie if she wanted to keep going or not, because my last chunk of questions about protest at Muhlenberg were less directly related to the rest of the interview. Another reason that the interview took so long was that Natalie was very descriptive. I did not want to cut her off at all, because we were both willing to stay for this long and I wanted to keep her answers authentic. Natalie even apologized for talking too much and offered to help me transcribe it! While transcribing, I have become more aware of people’s speech quirks. While Simone unconsciously said “Um” a lot, Natalie said “like, you know.” While these filler words are to be expected when someone is speaking off the cuff, it is interesting to see what words they fall back on the most. This also affects the transcription, because I need to make the decision whether or not to keep these phrases in. Powered by WPeMatico

“People just have to keep talking”

Name: Black and white signs from the National Organization for Women (NOW) being carried at the Women’s March in Washington DC, January 21st, 2017 Artist: Emily Hoolihan Location: Muhlenberg College: Protest Artifacts on Shared Shelf Commons http://mediacritique.bergbuilds.domains/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ZOOM0302.mp3 I spoke with a student who reached out to my Documentary Archives/Activism class through a post on Facebook about her experiences at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and in a school walk-out at her high school following the 2016 elections. We spoke about the support and hope that the Women’s March provided and the experience of doing social activism, and I learned about another protest at the Beacon School in New York. I began to think about the influence of social media coverage on social activism and the ability of media to shape perspectives. I reflected on past readings for my Documentary Archives/Activism course and the emphasis on the ability of digital history archives to share personal stories, and thought about my own responsibility as someone trying to help share stories even as a student rather than a journalist or someone more influential in media. Because I had some experience with oral history interviews before, I felt better about speaking clearly and with more confidence. Powered by WPeMatico

Interview with Illisa

Last week I interviewed Illisa K. I think the interview went very well. It flowed very nicely and there were very good ideas mentioned. However it was a little short. Before I started the interview I asked Illisa if she could elaborate on what I asked. I asked if she could go into much detail. Things were slightly different. I still think it was a fairly good oral history though. My interview with Illisa was much different than my interview with Greg. I got a different perspective and learned what it was like from someone firsthand at the march. I asked questions like, what made you want to march? how did it make you feel? did you go with anyone? A lot of questions from what I picked up from earlier readings during the semester. I gathered new information about what it was like to go to a march with a parent. Illisa says “It meant a lot. It was like super empowering just to see my mom really taking part in what was going on and to be so vocal and supportive of something. And it really just inspired me to do what she was doing”. I thought this was beautiful. It speaks to how much influence and support people like parents have. Because the interview was a little short, I actually am in the process of reaching out to Illisa’s mom to ask her similar questions about the relationship between her and Illisa and what it was like to go to the march together. I know this will be useful in Anthony’s omeka exhibit. The process of oral history interviewing is definitely becoming more familiar to me. I am definitely becoming more comfortable talking and asking people questions while listening actively. I am also becoming aware of the ethics and morals behind oral history interviewing, which to me is the most important part about this whole process. As a lover of documentary work and films, I feel more comfortable now, after learning about oral history interviewing and archiving, with making documentary films. I think in today’s world it is so crucial to hear stories peoples stories, to learn from them, and to relate. Overall, my interview with Illisa was very short. Approximately 8 minutes. But the things mentioned and learned during the interview are so powerful and meaningful, that they last way longer than 8 minutes. I hope you enjoy the interview and learn as much from it as I did. Oral History Illisa Powered by WPeMatico

Rogue Archivists – Guest Speaker

Today Dr. Gail De Kosnik visited our class today from the University of California Berkeley, to hear about our work archiving and conducting oral histories. She came to also talk about her book Rogue Archives. What was said: What is it like being human when media is constantly changing and our way of doing things keeps changing? The ways we learn, talk to each other, tell stories, is so different now then it used to be, because of media. What has the transition to digital been like? Technological shifts happen in every day life, and hobbies. How are people using technology everyday? How is this changing? Convergence culture began on the user end. Users converged first, before television and film. They used networks to connect, find each other, share stories. The earliest uses of media were not serious but were important to each user. People had different opinions and views on the internet and media.  Men and women viewed media differently. “The Internet does not archive itself”. How do people remember things that happened online. “If we don’t save our own digital production, no one will”. Culture must be archived since it can disappear in a heartbeat. As archivists and oral historians, we need to be aware of groups and communities, so that they can trust us with what they say and no one feels appropriated, embarrassed. Reminds me of Doc Research and location. Other Notes: College Campuses are battlegrounds Life of a student is stressful with everything that goes on Can do tons of preservation work with iPhones and in every day life Share resources and practices with other students to preserve history Video recording of screen is a great way to archive something on the web Practicing Oral Histories Write a question list for the person you are interviewing Powered by WPeMatico

Jessica: First Oral History

I interviewed Simone Becker about her extracurricular activities that link the Muhlenberg Theatre Association with the wider Allentown community. Through her work previously as Community Engagement Chair of the MTA, her continuing work as a regular participant in the community engagement theatre events, and her upcoming studio production, Simone is helping to bring theatre and theatre education to the students of Allentown. Not only is she participating in teaching theatre to students from elementary to high school, but she has expanded her studio production to reach beyond Muhlenberg and into schools. Studio productions, sponsored by the MTA, normally have a few performances over the course of one weekend, but Simone has scheduled additional performances set to take place at nearby schools. In this interview she discusses how these two community engagement events were formed, how they will hopefully impact the students, and why they are important tools for change. The biggest challenge that I faced during this interview was figuring out what questions to ask next. I knew that I had to be prepared to go in different directions, depending on how the conversation went, but it was still challenging. There are long pauses between questions as I figure out what question to ask next and how to properly phrase it. This was also challenging because my attention is split between listening to the narrator and trying to think of a question that follows up on what she was saying. I am interested to see if I am less comfortable doing my next interview, because I will most likely be interviewing someone that I am not as close with. Also, I have discussed Simone’s community engagement projects with her in the past, and I am a part of the MTA (I even went to one of the high schools to help teach one week). With a narrator that is discussing protest, I probably will not have as much previous knowledge about the person or events. I am currently unable to upload my audio file because it is larger than 150mb even when compressed Powered by WPeMatico

“Heck Yeah!” An Interview with Sydney Watt About the Women’s March on Washington

Photo taken of Sydney by her mother, Deborah Watt during the train ride into D.C. On Thursday October 5th, I sat down with my good friend Sydney Watt to discuss what she remembered of the day that her and I had spent together in Washington D.C. this past January. It was January 7th to be specific, and we had traveled to D.C. along with Sydney’s mother, Deborah Watt and my roommate, Devin Domeyer in order to participate in the historic Women’s March on Washington. On Friday October 6th, I realized that I had lost about half of the audio from our initial interview because of a sneaky audio recorder and its full memory card. After calling her, somewhat distraught, to explain what had happened, Sydney was gracious enough to do a second interview with me. This interview took place one week later, on Thursday October 12th. A willing participant, she was able to fill in all of the gaps from the missing audio. Sydney is a fellow senior at Muhlenberg College, pursuing a B.A. in Theatre and a minor in Creative Writing. This is her oral history. http://archivesandactivism.rebeccamackillop.bergbuilds.domains/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Oral-History-Assignment-1.mp3 A selfie taken by Deborah Watt including Sydney, Devin, and I in the train station in D.C. upon arrival   When Dr. Taub explained that we would be interviewing people who had been involved in the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches, Sydney Watt was the very first person who came to my mind. Not only had Sydney been to the march in Washington, but she had gone with me! Our shared experience and her notoriously eloquent conversational skills made her the perfect candidate. Sydney and I had met very early on in our careers as students at Muhlenberg. I sat down next to her at an interest meeting during the first week of school, for freshman considering the theatre major. Clearly, the meeting had a more lasting impact on her, as I would go on to drop the major only a few weeks later. Although it did not bring me academic guidance, that meeting did bring me a lasting friendship with Sydney. We would get lunch regularly, audition for all of the same improv groups, and come to share a close circle of friends. Sydney was not only willing to do the first interview with me, she was thrilled. After some brief negotiating of our equally hectic college-senior schedules, we agreed to meet in a Seegers Union project room late in the evening. I had my questions ready to go, written on a piece of notebook paper. I had the audio recorder which I had checked out from the Media Comm department that afternoon, and which I was still not entirely sure how to use. If Sydney was nervous about our interview, she didn’t show it. I, on the other hand, was beginning to realize the magnitude of documenting this exchange. This voice recorder was going to pick up my voice! And from there, my voice would be going […]

Interview with a Student Activist About Her Experience at the Women’s March

Name: Black and white signs from the National Organization for Women (NOW) being carried at the Women’s March in Washington DC, January 21st, 2017 Artist: Emily Hoolihan Location: Muhlenberg College: Protest Artifacts on Shared Shelf Commons http://mediacritique.bergbuilds.domains/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ZOOM0097.mp3 This is a first interview of Documentary Archives/Activism focused on documenting stories from the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and sister marches around the world as well as social, cultural, and political change. This interview was conducted on October 11th, 2017 to hear a student’s perspective and experiences at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. early this year and to preserve this story so it may be accessed by larger audiences and become a part of public history. The narrator is a college student who has a history of participation in activism for women’s rights focused on intersectionality and who continues to be involved in leadership and activism on campus. During the interview, the narrator talks about her motivation for joining the Women’s March and personal experience, thoughts about the goals/missions of the march and progress that was made, ways that the march may have been lacking or issues that need to be addressed, and similar topics. The interview process was very complex and at times felt awkward, because I interviewed my friend and roommate and many of the pre-interview steps felt very formal for a conversation between friends. I had not realized that typing up a transcript could be as difficult as I discovered it was, and I was frequently confused about what to do next or if I had everything that I needed, such as audio equipment and forms. I found that talking to my friend about a topic that we both cared about was very rewarding and the part of the interview process that was the least stressful, and we were both able to learn more about each other. Looking at the transcript and listening to the recording of the interview again, I see many places where I could definitely improve and do things differently next time, especially in asking questions more clearly. I believe I have learned from this experience and have a better understanding of oral history interviews.   Powered by WPeMatico

Muhlenberg College through a Wescoe Lens

This oral history’s narrator is 26-year-old Corey Thrash, a 2017 Muhlenberg College graduate through the Wescoe School of continuing education. Corey studied both Business and Finance and is currently living in the Allentown area. Corey was exposed to both Wescoe classes and traditional day classes at his time at Muhlenberg, providing him with insight as to how the differ and draw similarities. This oral history is focused on Corey’s time and experiences of being on campus as a Wescoe student. Specifically focusing on the aspects of social, cultural, and political change that were visible to him as a Wescoe Student, as well as the difference in classroom dynamics between Wescoe and traditional day classes. There, Corey provides detail as to what it is like being a Wescoe student among the greater Muhlenberg community that is socially, culturally, and politically involved. This oral history was recorded on October 10th, 2017.   http://blog.anthonyfillis.bergbuilds.domains/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Corey_Thrash_Oral_History_Final.mp3   Throughout recording an oral history, many things were uncovered. I certainly found my areas to improve and capitalize on. The first being, research is key! Having a close relationship with the narrator made me assume I had all of the necessary knowledge to carry on with the interview. However, not exactly having a concise focus in mind while interviewing certainly led to me feeling a little underprepared. This could have been solved by a quick pre-session between Corey and I where I would gather some detail and context prior to the interview, which would allow me to focus more concisely during the oral history. Having a more concise focus would have allowed me to be a better active listener and capitalize on more follow up questions, rather than focusing on controlling where the narrative of the oral history went. Beyond this, the experience was very positive and personal. The narrator did a wonderful job of sharing their personal experience, which was quite insightful as it is a story that isn’t often told here at Muhlenberg. After the recording stopped, Corey and I continued the conversation briefly, again noting the divide between traditional and Wescoe students on campus. The point was suggested that Wescoe students among the community are a great source of diversity for the campus and perhaps should be seen as such, rather than almost overlooked among the rest of the community. Conversations like this typically wouldn’t happen outside of an Oral history realm, so the medium is quite effective in capturing personal narratives in this sense. Although already having some experience with recording oral history, there is always more to learn and skills to hone. Thank you again for your time Corey!   Powered by WPeMatico