The Upcountry History Museum’s Oral History Program
The Upcountry History Museum is committed to gathering, preserving, and interpreting the voices and memories of Upstate South Carolina people, communities and participants in past events.
Since its inception in 2002, the museum’s Oral History program actively collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. Both audio and video interviews are recorded in the museum’s oral history recording studio, as well as off-site. Recordings of the interview are transcribed, summarized, or indexed, and then placed in the museum’s archives. The interviews may be used for research or excerpted in a publication, radio or video documentary, museum exhibition, dramatization or other forms of public presentation. Recordings, transcripts, catalogs, photographs and related documentary materials may also be posted on the Museum’s website.
Why the Upcountry History Museum is committed to recording oral histories:
Oral history helps round out the story of the past.
Oral history provides a fuller, more accurate picture of the past by augmenting the information provided by public records, statistical data, photographs, maps, letters, diaries, and other historical materials. Eyewitnesses to events contribute various viewpoints and perspectives that fill in the gaps in documented history, sometimes correcting or even contradicting the written record. Interviewers are able to ask questions left out of other records and to interview people whose stories have been untold or forgotten. At times, an interview may serve as the only source of information available about a certain place, event, or person.
Oral history helps us understand how individuals and communities experienced the forces of history.
Traditional history courses in elementary, middle and high school; as well as college typically touch on the major events of the past, covering the fundamentals of who, what, when, why, and where. Oral history brings depth to our understanding of the past by carrying us into experience at an individual level. Thoughtful, personal answers to questions reveal the ways decisions made by the movers and shakers of the day changed the lives of ordinary people and their families and communities.
Oral history teaches us what has changed and what has stayed the same over time.
Change is obvious to the eye, but oral history allows people to express the personal consequences of change, from the simple things of life – wood stove to microwave, dial phone to cell phone, phonograph to I-Pod – to the more complex – local production to global outsourcing, country living to suburban sprawl. During interviews, interviewees reflect on ways their lives remained the same in spite of change, particularly in the areas of values, traditions and beliefs.
Oral history preserves for future generations a sound portrait of who we are in the present and what we remember about the past.
Inevitably, future generations will view –and judge- today’s generation through the lens of their own experiences in their own time. The story of the past is continually revised in the light of new interpretations. Oral history enables people to share their stories in their own words, with their own voices, through their own understanding of what happened and why. With careful attention to preserving our sound recordings, the voices of our narrators will endure to speak for them when they are gone. By complicating the story with individual experience, oral histories will help future historians avoid sweeping generalizations that stereotype people, engender prejudice, and overlook important variables in the historical context.
To learn more about the museum’s oral history program or to suggest an idea, person or project, please contact Kristina Hornback, Curator of Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (864) 467-3100 ext. 116.