Hastings College class project helps create oral histories, launches community-focused initiative

This past fall, Dr. Michella Marino and students in her Oral History class engaged in a service-learning oral history project to conduct and preserve a series of interviews related to the Vietnam War era. Marino had worked with Hastings College students previously on local oral histories but discovered that once the interviews were completed, nothing of note happened with the finished products. This led Marino and her class to build the Hastings Oral History Initiative (HOHI), which launched to the public Wednesday.

hohiThe HOHI is a free online archive that features oral histories from the Vietnam Era conducted last fall, as well as digital oral histories originally created for Mary Lanning Healthcare’s 100th anniversary three years ago. Plans include adding additional oral histories submitted by community members.

The interviews as part of the two collections are available online as .mp3 files to download and listen to. Complete transcripts are available for some of the interviews.

“For our Introduction to Oral History class in the fall, we were able to interview people from the Vietnam War era, which provides insight into local history and experiences of people from our region during that time,” said Marino, assistant professor of history at Hastings College. “The class conducted many interviews, covering military service and experiences during the war, media coverage of the war, growing up in that era, family life, student resistance and more. Other interviews highlight such topics as NASA and the space race. The class also helped create forms and processes for the Hastings Oral History Initiative.”

While the HOHI launched with oral history collections from the two original projects, the initiative is open to the community to add additional oral history interviews. Information and forms on the website explain how to submit oral histories to HOHI.

“When we started building the website, we wanted to create a way for community members to contribute their oral history and expand the HOHI over time. The documents and forms section of the site explains the process, plus we provided resources on how to create an oral history,” said Brian Whetstone, a junior history major from Kearney, Nebraska. Whetstone worked with Marino to create the website and organize files, transcriptions and more.

“This is a great way for the Hastings community to get involved with local history. By making the interviews available to everyone, it’s an opportunity to engage in and make connections to our local, national and global communities through our shared history,” Marino said.

Whetstone said the HOHI is a work in progress, but that’s the beauty of the project.

“Having people tell their own stories using their own words is a fascinating way to look at and understand history,” he said. “We’re hoping in the future to have community workshops focusing on oral history, and potentially expand the project to convert existing oral histories housed elsewhere in Hastings to a digital format and add them to the HOHI website.”

The Hastings Oral History Initiative website can be found at https://sites.google.com/hastings.edu/hohi. Because of file sizes, many audio files will not play directly from a web browser. The listener will need to download them to listen.

Hastings College is a private, four-year institution located in Hastings, Nebraska, that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. With 64 majors and 15 pre-professional programs, Hastings College has been named among “Great Schools, Great Prices” by U.S. News & World Report and a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review. For more, go to hastings.edu.

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