This evening Fullerton Public Library hosted COPH Nite, an opportunity for those of us at the Center for Oral and Public History (COPH, for those of you not in the know) to share with the community what we do and why we do it. Thanks to an overzealous storm system, attendance was small, but some of the topics reignited my personal interest in this thing called oral history.
Think about it. We actually go out into the community and talk to real people about specific topics, hopefully ones near and dear to our heart. (if not dear, we at least learn to tolerate them!) Everyone has a story, and through this methodology we call "oral history" we capture and preserve that perspective, that life, someones memories. Pretty cool, huh?!
I also love talking about memory studies (see Robert Kraft's Memory Perceived: Recalling the Holocaust for a great read), interview techniques, and learning from my friends and colleagues about how to deal with, shall I say, more "challenging" interview moments. (a personal best: one of my El Toro narrators pointblank asked me during his interview if I thought Nixon would be remembered as one of the ten greatest presidents. Not only do we try to keep ourselves out of the interview, but Nixon is such a controversial figure. What on earth do I say?! I had to do some FAST thinking on that one!)
And then there's German history, my personal area of study. I mean, come on. Who doesn't love reading Norman Naimark's, Russians in Germany (one of the key works that introduced me to the horrors of post-war rape), Christopher Browning's, Ordinary Men (how "ordinary" Germans were transformed into active and willing participants in the Final Solution) and finally, Allison Weir's Frauen (a collection of oral histories given by women who lived in Germany during the Third Reich).
(by now, I've probably lost half of you. And why would you be yawning? You can't possibly be bored!)
Obviously, I'm still passionate about the topic (three years post-graduation). While I still maintain an active interest in film, this is equally as exciting and has morphed into my current line of work. I never in a million years thought I'd be working in oral history as a career. (nor did I anticipate becoming a semi-expert in all things Marine Corps / El Toro Marine Corps Air Station) It just goes to show you crazy, random jobs do exist...and people like me will actually fill them!
(for anyone that actually made it to the end, I hereby bestow on you an honorary gold star.)