I started to really dig into my project over spring break last week. ICYMI, I am doing an oral history project, interviewing my two grandmothers about their lives up to this point.
Prior to spring break, I met with Ryan Wilcox of the Duderstadt Center and Yun Zhou, a Sociology professor who studies family and gender. Ryan and I met in the Dude and talked about the logistics of recording and editing, and he kindly hooked me up with some recording equipment that I was able to take home over break. Professor Zhou and I discussed oral history resources and interviewing, and she gave me some great ideas about how to uncover themes related to gender without trying to force it during an interview. She also recommended that I check out the author and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich, so I checked out one of her books from the library and just started reading it.
Over two days during spring break, I worked with my Nana, who lives near me in Rhode Island. We went over my ideas for the project together and discussed the five single-spaced pages of questions I had prepared for our interviews. Instead of me asking her questions, we decided that she would gather her thoughts and speak to a series of questions in one longer answer, recording short narratives focused on different time periods or aspects of her life. This worked well!
In addition to recording, my Nana shared with me some writing she had done in a memoir class about ten years ago. I convinced her to let me record her reading some of her writing for my project, which was great! She also shared notebooks full of journal entries and tens of thousands of family photographs, dating back to her and my late Grandad’s childhoods. It was really special to go through old photo albums and documents together. We have a pretty close relationship but working on the project really prompted her to open up to me in a way that she never had before. I think we both really enjoyed this time together!
I am feeling pretty good about my progress thus far. This week, I will get to work on editing and developing a framework for the website in preparation for my workshop next week. I have a ton of photographs and writing that I need to sort through, too. I’m excited to see things starting to come to life and look forward to hearing your feedback soon!