Mission and Purpose
The DC Oral History Collaborative is a city-wide initiative that documents the District’s memories, stories, and cultures through oral history interviews. The Collaborative empowers residents to interview and be interviewed, documents the city’s untold stories, and engages residents with oral history interviews through public humanities programs.
The DC Oral History Collaborative is a partnership between HumanitiesDC and the DC Public Library.
What does DCOHC offer?
Interviewer Training – The Collaborative’s primary training workshop takes place over three weeks and includes a total of 8 hours of instruction. Participants are introduced to every part of the oral history process from narrator recruitment to follow-up and documentation. The workshop is aimed at DC residents interested in recording interviews with friends and family and those interested in starting larger oral history projects with their communities. The workshops are free, but pre-registration is required, and space is limited.
Intro to Oral History Webinar – This shorter version of the training is periodically offered to introduce participants to the practice of oral history and provide advice on where to find additional resources. The webinar helps define oral history and its relationships to other forms of interviewing and media and offers a high-level overview of what goes into conducting an oral history interview and managing an oral history project. This webinar can be offered to groups trying to decide whether an oral history project is right for their community.
The Collaborative offers three grant programs: one for collecting interviews from narrators around a central topic, theme or research questions, another for extending projects funded by a prior DCOHC grant, and another for public humanities projects and events that bring existing interviews out of the archive.
Oral History Project Grants – $7,000 award for collecting oral history interviews around a particular topic, theme or research question related to Washington, DC. The grant can pay for staff salary and wages, honoraria, equipment purchases, software subscriptions, travel, outreach, transcription, and other expenses directly associated with collecting oral history interviews. Projects must collect at least five interviews, each with: a release form for inclusion in the DC Public Library’s online archive, transcript, index, and metadata. Each project director also participates in a three-session training workshop.
Extension Grants – $6,000 award for extending projects previously conducted with an Oral History Project Grant. The previous grant must be completely closed out. Projects must collect at least another five interviews with complete documentation. These interviews, too, are made available for inclusion in the DC Public Library’s special collection.
Public Programming Grants – $12,000 maximum award for projects that use existing collections to create accessible public humanities projects in Washington, DC. Projects must ensure that narrators’ original voices are faithfully and respectfully represented in their projects and must include the narrators in the development of the project whenever possible.
Oral History Coffee Chats – Once a month, we host a virtual roundtable featuring a DC Oral History Collaborative community partner. The conversation can include members of the project team, interviewers, and narrators. The programs provide insight into the stories collected by community partners and into the process of creating and carrying out a community oral history project.
The DC Oral History Collaborative Collection
Interviews funded through the Collaborative’s grants programs and submitted with full documentation are made available for accession in the DC Public Library’s People’s Archive. These interviews are available in the library’s online catalog DigDC where they can be searched by keyword, neighborhood, subject, and various other metadata. Interviews in the archive include audio/video files, transcripts, and time-stamped indexes.
Survey of DC-Focused Oral History Collections
This survey was produced by Dr. Anna Kaplan and Jennifer Montooth for the Historical Society of Washington, DC. The survey looked at 45 collections detailing their holdings and the accessibility of each oral history interview. The survey is an excellent place to start for those interested in starting their own oral history project and applying for a grant.
Map of Oral History Recordings
In 2020, local historian Brian Kraft and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society created a mapping project organizing DC-related oral histories, that can be accessed digitally, on a map of the city.
Interviewer Training Coursepack
The training coursepack, written, edited, and enhanced over the years by oral historians, Benji de la Piedra, Dr. Anna Kaplan, and Maggie Lemere, is the foundation for the three-session Interviewer Training Workshop. While the coursepack serves as an excellent reference and library of examples, we highly recommend participating in an Interviewer Training Workshop or similar course before beginning your oral history project.
Project Manager: Jasper Collier, Oral History Project Manager
The DC Oral History Collaborative is a partnership of: