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Defining Oral History (An Internship with Oral History in the Liberal Arts): Jacob Seitz ’20 at OHLA

This winter I had the opportunity to intern with the Oral History in the Liberal Arts Initiative (OHLA) and work with Brooke Bryan on her project. I had really wanted to go back to Washington, D.C. where I had my last co-op but, when presented the opportunity, OHLA seemed to be the best choice and I’m very glad I took the opportunity. I could work remotely, stay close to friends and loved ones, and did not have to move across the country again.

Interning with OHLA has given me a new breadth of knowledge in the realm of oral history and my intended career path in journalism. OHLA has a wide range of tutorials available that helped me gain knowledge of tools that could make transcribing or uploading and archiving interviews a breeze.

My day-to-day responsibilities as the Digital Archives Coordinator at OHLA involve maintaining the project’s social media accounts and helping with the needs of the website and student projects, but I was also required to learn and make tutorials for programs at a moment’s notice. OHLA is an exhilarating exercise in staying on one’s toes, but I thrive off of being given tasks to complete on short notice so that worked out for me.

When I started my position with OHLA, I was completely oblivious as to what oral history is or how it pertains to a liberal arts education. I learned very quickly that oral history isn’t just one specific subset of historical analysis, but almost any spoken or transcribed conversation between people. If I reminisce about my younger years with a friend of mine, record that conversation, and then transcribe it, that could be considered oral history. So could asking a group of strangers on the street what they had for lunch today. If I gained one thing from my time at OHLA, it’s a whole new understanding of oral history.

This newfound understanding of oral history has helped me not only in this internship but also in my intended career path of journalism. The knowledge and tools available in oral history have given me a new awareness of how to effectively transcribe and archive interviews, as well as incorporate interesting user-friendly aids into stories to keep readers interested.

Overall, my experience with OHLA let me stay close to home while granting me access to information that I had no idea existed before.

Check out the work I have done here, as well as the full OHLA site here.

Photo credit: http://brookeblackmon.com

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Jacob Seitz is a student at Antioch College, majoring in Political Economy and Media Arts. He is interested in political journalism and photography.

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