Vietnam, Oral Histories, and the WYSO Archives Digital Humanities Symposium

October 20-22 marked The Past Made Present: The 2016 WYSO Archives Digital Humanities Symposium (simply referred to as the symposium for the rest of this post), an event that has been intertwined with my residency work since my first day at WYSO. While the symposium consisted mainly of work being done in the Miami Valley, there were also participants from WGBH, the Library of Congress, and the University of North Texas.  The symposium opened with a gallery talk by William Short and Willa Seidenberg that was open to the public.

picture-1 Willa is pictured center. Jocelyn Robinson, organizer of the symposium and WYSO’s Archive Fellow can be seen smiling on the left. Sorry, photography is not exactly my forte.

The symposium gave me a chance to see what great digital humanities work is being done in the region. While the focus of the symposium was on Vietnam era materials to correspond with this season’s of Rediscovered Radio here at WYSO it also included presentations on Dayton’s place in the history of funk, my NDSR work at the station, and WYSO community focused and created material like Youth Radio, Veteran’s Voices, and the Civil Rights Oral History Project.

picture-2Presentation on Rediscovered Radio. Daniel Ellsberg (best known for the Pentagon Papers) visited Antioch College in April 1965 as part of the three day Vietnam Colloquium.

Creating public access to WYSO’s Oral History Project is one of my tasks for my residency. The project was created in 2013 and is currently run by Dr. Kevin McGruder, Assistant Professor of History at Antioch College (Antioch College holds WYSO’s license). Currently the project consists of over thirty interviews equaling over thirty-five hours of content about Yellow Springs, Ohio, Antioch College, and the surrounding area. Collecting the interviews is becoming especially important as elders in the community pass away. Orlando Brown, along with his wife Lenora were interviewed in 2015. Orlando passed away last month.

picture-3Dr. Kevin McGruder discusses WYSO’s Oral History Project

With a partnership with the Greene County Public Library, six interviews are currently online though without transcripts. The transcripts for the six existing interviews and the rest of the interviews will go online over the duration of my residency. While I haven’t had the chance to listen to all of the oral histories yet, a few topics covered in the first six interviews include housing discrimination, Freedom Summer, SNCC, YWCA, the desegregation of Yellow Springs including Gegner’s Barbershop, using public transportation during segregation, and sexism in the workplace. I plan to cover the WYSO Oral History Project more in future blog posts.

picture-4Cyrus Moore presents on the Vietnam Veterans of Athens County Oral History Project being conducted by the Athens County Historical Society & Museum.

My main take away from the symposium was the effect of the Vietnam War had not only on soldiers but also on Americans at home and on the Vietnamese. As someone who went through the public school system in the 1990s and the 2000s, Vietnam was barely covered (if at all) in history classes. Bridget Federspiel, a Dayton high school teacher brought up a similar point during the presentation about at the Veteran’s Voices Project at Wright State University’s Veterans and Military Center. In the history textbook Federspiel uses to teach freshman students, Vietnam is covered in a paragraph. The symposium gave me a chance to listen to clips of oral histories from Vietnam veterans being collected by Ohio institutions and fill in my gaps of knowledge. Oral histories are raw, first person accounts, something that can’t always be conveyed in textbooks.

This post was written by Tressa Graves, resident at WYSO.

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