Oral History Workshop a Success

By Mary Whitton and Carol Hutchins

A group of 16 individuals, each interested in preserving some aspect of computing history, met May 12 and 13 in Chapel Hill (NC) for the ACM History Committee sponsored workshop on Doing Oral History. In addition to being of diverse age, gender, and national origin, the attendees were interested in a broad spectrum of projects. Examples mentioned include an oral history of a specific computer company, the stories of the comparatively unknown members of architecture teams who designed important processors, or gathering an oral history of a online game company by talking with many of its former employees. Representing the UK, Italy, and the US, the attendees shared the goal of learning to do a better job of taking oral histories so that the materials will be of maximum value to future researchers.

The workshop covered topics such as best practices, e.g., what types of recording devices to use and types of tools that can help identify themes in and across interviews, and hands-on activities such as interviewing and critiquing interviews of each other. The group practiced preparing a blueprint or plan for a given OH project. The history committee itself is benefiting from the workshop, as what we learned leads us to reflect on how we can do a better job on our major project–insuring there is an oral history for each of the Turing Award winners.

The workshop organizers were extremely pleased to have as the workshop leader Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Center for Oral History Research at Columbia University. All were grateful for the work of our gracious host, Mary Whitton, along with the staff of the CS Dept of UNC.

Group Photo

Here is our crew at the end of the workshop:

Backrow: Mary Marshall Clark (workshop leader), Kim Tracy, Vicki Almstrum, Alex Magoun,
Mary Whitton, Laine Nooney, Roy Levin, Mate Szabo, Andrew McGee
Middle: Elisabetta Mori, Helen Carter, Hansen Hsu
Front: Martin Campbell-Kelly, Kevin Murrell, Carol Hutchins, Joe Greathouse

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