The Challenges of Oral History in the 21st Century: Diversity, Inequality and Identity Construction Using Online Video Oral Histories in University Courses across the Curriculum

Gail Gradowski
Jill Goodman Gould


Thanks to the internet, educators now have unprecedented access to oral histories. We are examining the way that video oral histories can be used and integrated in various kinds of university courses. Now easily available to educators are a wide range of oral histories, from small collections like Ball State University's video interviews of 40 members of the U.S. Army's First Infantry Division from the Vietnam War to large archives of oral histories such the Densho Digital Archive of over 600 video interviews documenting the Japanese American internment during WWII. The variety is already impressive and it is growing very quickly along with links to educational tools and supporting resources. Sharing our own experiences using a videotape collection of Holocaust testimonies in an advanced writing course at Santa Clara University and surveying a range of other university courses in various disciplines that currently use online interviews and testimonies as part of their curriculum, we argue that creatively designed multimedia projects based on video oral histories are uniquely suited to engage millennial students in authentic research. We will examine assignment design and pedagogy, student engagement, final products, ways that the educational mission of the collections is being realized, and additional benefits of students building the literacies they need for the 21st Century, including information, media, and digital.