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.