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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 19 : December, 2005
Vol 57 No. 19 | December, 2005
VOAHA Web Site Relives History

With the completion of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, CSULB’s award-winning Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive (VOAHA) Web site has acheived its mission to make available more than 1,000 hours of original oral history recordings, according to Project Director Sherna Berger Gluck.

The Web site, which is a collaborative project of the College of Liberal Arts, the University Library and Academic Computing Services, provides access to the full audio recordings of oral histories that have been deposited in the library’s Special Collections.

With its focus on orality, VOAHA brings to life the timbre and tone of voice, the nuances of spoken language, and the richness of oral narratives of some 343 people, including African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Latinos/as, South East Asian and Southern and Eastern European immigrants. They range from farm laborers to professionals, from social reformers/community activists to anarchists and communists, from ventriloquists to jazz arrangers. The materials, organized in 30 separate series, bring to life the history of the United States in the period from the 1890s to the 1990s, focusing particularly on women, labor, ethnic history and Long Beach community history.

The 600 hours in the women’s history collection, initiated originally as part of the Feminist History Research Project founded by Gluck in 1972, include the oral histories of California women who served as rank and file activists in the national suffrage movement and more than 250 hours of interviews with “Rosie the Riveters.” Through the work of project co-director and local historian, Kaye Briegel, the pioneers who helped to build the commercial and cultural institutions of Long Beach, including the university, are well represented through interviews totaling some 170 hours. Interviews collected from early 1970s Asian American Studies classes capture what life was like in the Japanese fishing village on Terminal Island until 1942, while more recent Cambodian and Hmong immigrants who fled their war-torn countries document their experiences and their efforts to rebuild their lives and cultural institutions in Long Beach. Workers in the oil fields of Long Beach, the garment and furniture factories of Los Angeles, the docks of San Pedro and the fields of Rancho Los Alamitos, also can be heard in some 150 hours of audio recordings.

VOAHA Web site

The VOAHA Web site has been recognized with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association, as well as Long Beach Heritage’s Award of Merit. The site was originally funded by a 2001 grant awarded to Gluck and Briegel from the Haynes Foundation and was officially launched on Aug. 28, 2002. In 2003, project members and site designers, Dave Bradley and Nancy Rayner of Academic Computing Services, accepted the Accenture/MIT Digital Government Award for the site in the Higher Education Innovator category. This award celebrates “exemplary achievements in the development and delivery of Web-enabled services by federal, state and local governments and by institutions of higher education.”

The site received acclaim in 2004 from the International Oral History Association when it met in Rome. Gluck is pleased by the worldwide impact made by the virtual archive and, particularly, with its use by scholars and students of all ages and backgrounds.

“I started this oral history work in 1972 when I interviewed a 104-year-old suffragist and birth control activist,” she added. “That interview could have just sat somewhere, unused. Now I feel I’ve created a legacy and that is very satisfying. Others can use that interview and the hundred of hours of interviews created by my colleagues and students.”

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