Oral History in the Liberal Arts is a project that I just cannot seem to stay away from. For my fourth and final co-op of my Antioch career I have found myself seated back at OHLA alongside Brooke Bryan, OHLA co-director and my classmate Mari. I originally started working with OHLA back in January of 2017 for my second co-op. Little did I know at the time that I would be drawn back into the work sometime around August 2017, when a student I had worked with reached out to me for help. I returned to my Digital Archivist position in totality from October-December 2017, passing the torch onward yet again in January 2018. Starting in April 2018 I began working part time with OHLA to keep the projects moving and the site updated. From here I have migrated back into my third full time position as the Project Manager and Digital Developer at OHLA.
Working with OHLA has been a range of so many experiences that sometimes it feels like I am riding a roller coaster. There are those days where everything just clicks, the work flow flies by and everything feels doable. Then there are those days where the weight of how big of an undertaking OHLA truly is – being run mainly by three people from Antioch – starts to sink in. Most days are a happy middle ground. The ground that says, “We can do this!” and if one things do not work out you take a step back, rearrange, and try yet again. In a nut shell this is what OHLA is, a bunch of people pushing forward thinking they can do it.
Sometimes when asked what OHLA is I have to try to think of how to describe it. My original answer would normally have to do with the faculty and student projects that are hosted within the databases of OHLA, but honestly it is so much more. As OHLA is entering its fourth year of funding, and third year of funding projects, the site is developing into something beautiful. What originally seemed like a lot of different random posts paints a wider and beautiful picture. OHLA is a collaboration of 13 colleges across the Great Lakes College Association, with 11 currently featured, that is focused on teaching and sharing oral history techniques with each other. At its very core OHLA is focused on the pedagogy of it all.
My duties this time around have focused in on contacting OHLA-funded participants, posting blog posts OHLA team members send me, video editing, and trouble shooting on the website. Later on they will focus in more on Omeka to OHMS, and layout design for the website itself on top of more video editing. This quarter OHLA feels like and old familiar friend, someone who I deeper and help out through thick and thin. To begin this chapter in our story together I journeyed to Kenyon College with Brooke from July 5th-7th for the OHLA Institute.
We arrived at Kenyon on the 5th, checked into our rooms and made our way to Pierce Hall. Here in the upstairs room of Pierce Hall is where the 2018 OHLA Institute was held. We spent almost all of July 6th curled up within the wooded walls. Sharing and presenting to each other, the institute was designed as a training ground for newly funded OHLA students and faculty to learn the basics. Faces from projects I worked on came to life in front of my eyes bringing a mixture of emotions to my chest from finally getting to meet the people whose projects I so closely worked on over the last year and a half.
This was not just a few disconnected people in front of computers twiddling away. This is a network of people with the same passions driving them forward with the common goal of sharing their processes and stories. I left the institute feeling incredibly grateful that I got to meet so many of the people I had worked with, and admittedly a bit embarrassed of how much praise I had gotten over the course of three days.
The first week of work this quarter felt all new, with a deep sense of wanting to make everyone’s dreams come true. Brooke, Mari, and I met upstairs in the Writing Institute in McGregor on Antioch College campus. Together we brainstormed ideas, coating the white board in various colors. Together we arranged the chairs into a cozier setting to promote our workflow. Together we worked on shaping what we hoped to accomplish in five and a half short weeks. It was not until this week that I realized how much I appreciated working together in a circle to bounce ideas around. Most of my work experience thus far had been remote and a bit lonely.
From my laptop keyboard countless emails to participants at Hope College and the OHLA Institute were sent out. Team member pages created, labeled, accounts following, so many new faces welcomed on board. Email duty has switched to video editing, practicing, changing, improving. My video editing skills were albeit a bit rusty, but it gave me a chance to call upon friends for a guide and from here who knows. One thing about OHLA is the project continues on and there is always room to grow. Two weeks ago was project managing, this week is editing overlays and minisodes. All I know is that I look forward to the future that OHLA can bring.
For my third co-op adventure I found myself happily back at OHLA in my Digital Archivist position. During Winter quarter 2017 I had the opportunity to work with OHLA and Brooke for the first time, and during my Summer quarter, found my love of the job all over again. For people new to OHLA I would describe the collective as a bunch of people who love oral history and want to share it with the world. On the OHLA website there are a variety of tutorials, how-to guides, and oral history projects from across the thirteen schools that make up the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA).
While I may have worked at OHLA before, one beautiful part of the job is that what you do day to day changes. On a Monday I may be answering emails and adding new smiling faces to the OHLA website. On a Tuesday I may be working away entering in metadata in OHMS, the site we use to build out projects. On a Wednesday I may be creating up to 6 new pages for an oral history project that need to go live. It is ever changing and keeps you busy!
My day to day work mainly revolves around adding to the OHLA website, posting on the OHLA Facebook and Twitter accounts, and working with people to get their oral history projects up and running. Most specifically this quarter I have worked with Noriko Sugimori to expand her War Memories oral history project, doubled the amount of interviews posted for Regina Martin in her Literature and Professional Life: A Digital Life Stories Archive oral history project, emailed new OHLA members, and worked on overhauling the social media campaign to streamline it more. I have also edited many of the posts and pages on the OHLA website – to streamline them by making them easier to navigate or more visually pleasing – such as the Faculty and Student project archives.
OHLA is completely faculty and student driven, and to me that is what makes it beautiful. There are definitely days that it can be nerve-wracking, realizing that most all of the day-to-day work to keep the collective going is done by two people – one of whom is me – but it is rewarding because of that. OHLA is made up of many smiling faces who are there because they love oral history and want to share what they can with the world. By working together and sharing techniques it makes the process of recording and presenting oral history easier for beginners and masters alike.
What drew me to OHLA in the first place was a curiosity about oral history, audio editing, and digital archives. This curiosity bloomed into a passion and helped push me along into crafting my own degree of anthropology and history. I wanted to come back to OHLA not just because I missed it and wanted to help out again, but because I thought that it might hold a future to me. Something I have been considering this quarter is to explore my own oral history project through OHLA, though for now my main goal is to help others with their projects.
Probably the last thing I find so appealing about OHLA is flexibility of work location. My quarter has been riddled with non-stop action but with my trusty HP laptop by my side and a little WiFi, my OHLA work is always complete. From sitting by shimmering water, to a window, or by a fish tank, or in an arm chair, my OHLA work flows from my keyboard onto the World Wide Web. It is on these days I stop and smile at the work I completed, because even if no ones knows it was me, they can enjoy the piece I helped create. Before the quarter is complete I hope to add a guide on how to navigate WordPress alongside the other helpful guides written by my fellows, to help beginners find their way.
For my second co-op, I am working at the Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA) as the Digital Archives Coordinator. OHLA is a collaboration of students and faculty that are part of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) who want to keep oral history alive and explore different interviewing techniques. Here are OHLA’s Mission Statement, and the faces behind the project.
The daily tasks of being a Digital Archives Coordinator vary from working on the back end of the OHLA WordPress to making social media posts to OHLA’s Facebook and Twitter pages. In my first few weeks at OHLA, I have helped create project pages for Addison Nace’s Unravelling Traditions of Mayan Textiles in Chiapas, Mexico oral history project, expanded the current social media campaign, made a guide to OHMS, and created all of the posts for the Denison University oral history project: Literature and Professional Life: A Digital Life Stories Archive.
Besides working on the back end of the OHLA WordPress building pages, I also work on OHMS, the tool used by the OHLA team to archive, index and sync transcriptions to interviews. OHMS stands for Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, the site has private access to it only allowing those with accounts to use it. On OHMS I have helped fix and fill in missing metadata, exported the XML files used to display the interviews, and updated all of the interviews on the OHLA WordPress to make sure the interview metadata is correct. As part of my tasks I was asked to write a Metadata Entry Guide for OHMS that will be distributed to OHLA affiliated members for use in entering their interviews into the OHLA OHMS repository.
Not all of my days are spent just typing away in the basement of the Antioch College Olive Kettering Library by a window though, sometimes I have to hop onto Adobe Audition in the Arts and Science Building to clean up the interview audio before it can be made public. During my first few weeks on the job I edited and cleaned up 7 complete interview files that may be used in the Quilters S.O.S Save Our Stories Project.
OHLA as a whole is an amazing project with a beautiful goal to save stories for later generations and teach the current generation how to use interviewing to their advantage. With OHMS the interviews can be documented, transcribed and then uploaded to one place making the whole process of sharing projects faster and more streamlined than in the past. I can see OHLA going places in the future and I hope I can help move the project forward.
My interest in OHLA started during my first co-op, when I thought I would need to stay in Yellow Springs to take classes on campus during my second co-op. Even though those plans changed I decided to pursue the OHLA co-op because it combines disciplines I am interested in, mainly History and the Media Arts. By the end of my co-op with OHLA I hope to have refined my skills with WordPress, audio editing, and expanded my knowledge of the interviewing process to use later on in life.
For her Spring 2016 co-op term, Emma found herself up in Putnam county of Northwest Ohio, at The Quarry Farm, a nature preserve and conservation farm smack in between Pandora and Ottawa. She arrived on a cold spring day with snow blowing around her feet, and has slowly watched the seasons change over the course of her time at the farm. Trees are budding, seedlings are growing, and flowers have come and gone. Life finds a new foot hold at the 50-acre nature preserve and conservation farm.
The main goals of The Quarry Farm are to provide a natural habitat where native plants can grow and prosper and to provide a place where farm animals can come to find a new home from various situations. On the farm animal sanctuary there are a variety of animals — pigs, donkeys, geese, chickens, goats, and turkeys. The animals all have their own unique personalities that you will enjoy getting to know. The rest of The Quarry Farm consists of a certified butterfly garden, a cabin from the late 1800’s, and trails back into the regrowth that is the preserve itself that runs along Cranberry Run, one of the clearest creeks you will find.
Emma’s role as an intern on the farm is to combat an ever growing problem in the United States, invasive bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard. These invasive plants will crowd out the native plants and kill off diversity. The Quarry Farm combats these invasive species by pulling them and cutting down bigger bushes to allow the local flora and fauna to flourish. You never know what you may find back in the Quarry; toads, snakes, snails, a slug or two, or even a rare Blanchard’s frog, like the one above. The wildlife and plants take Emma back to when she was little, out with her father in the woods exploring with eyes full of wonder. She picked this job because of the love of nature that sprouted when she was young thanks to her father. One of the most special moments she has had on the job is going through her photos of wildlife in the Quarry with her father and showing him around. The Quarry Farm is a special place that is unique, especially for Putnam County that has no county parks. Plants rarely found elsewhere have started popping back up in the Quarry through the continued efforts of those involved combating invasive species giving them the room to grow. If you are ever in the area, think of stopping by, you won’t regret the trip.
The Quarry Farm’s blog: https://thequarryfarm.org/
Facebook: The Quarry Farm