“You Can’t Just Create a Beautiful Space. It Also Has to Feel Safe to Be There.”

A Q&A with How We Go Home editor Sara Sinclair

Voice of Witness shares an inside look into one of the newest oral history projects from Voice of Witness: How We Go Home. Sara is an OHMA alum and is currently Project Coordinator for the Columbia Center for Oral History Research's Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project.

We’re excited to share an inside look into one of the newest oral history projects from Voice of Witness: How We Go Home.

How We Go Home will illuminate the experiences of Native peoples living on reservations in the U.S. and Canada. Narrators will describe the impacts of forced assimilation, displacement, and the human rights violations emerging from institutional problems within the reservation system, while revealing Native society’s incredible capacity for resistance, healing, and survival.

How We Go Home is one of six projects Voice of Witness is currently incubating through the VOW Story Fund, which provides oral history training, editorial guidance, and project funding to human rights storytellers in need of institutional support.

Faculty Provost Award: Transforming Oral History through Teaching Visual Literacy

Transforming Oral History Through Teaching Visual Literacy

Course: Oral History Method and Theory
Semester: Fall 2016


Mary Marshall Clark, Director of CCOHR and Co-Director of the Oral History Master of Arts program (OHMA) at Columbia, working with OHMA student Nyssa Chow, designed a proposal to the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to use Mediathread and other software to transform the way in which oral history is taught in Clark’s Oral History Method and Theory seminar.  The CTL grant will support the purchase of video cameras, and the development of new course modules in which students will analyze the videos they produce directly from the video source: developing a new lexicon for oral history through visualizing theoretical concepts such as memory, intersubjectivity and meaning-making in the interview.  Through incorporating an analysis of gestures, facial expressions, bodily cues and the intersection of sound and image in the oral history exchange, students will develop new methodologies for analyzing the work they produce and develop innovative visual forms for sharing their knowledge with a broader public.

In October 2014, the Office of the Provost launched a Request for Proposals for Hybrid Course Redesign and Delivery. Senior faculty review committees selected projects to receive grants. Each project was chosen based on its potential to enhance teaching and learning at Columbia. The selected projects cover a broad range of disciplines and topics, from history to economics to biomedical engineering.  These projects are already exposing undergraduate and graduate students alike to partial or full flipping of the classroom, team-based and experiential learning, and just-in-time teaching.

In December 2015, the Office of the Provost announced the third Request for Proposals (click here to access the RFP page).  Instructors of courses selected will have access to the resources and support of the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) for content development, instructional design, media production, systems integration, assessment, and project management.  Courses selected are also funded from $5,000 up to $20,000 for a one-semester period.  A key goal of this fund is to measure the effectiveness of these designs, delivery methods and learning strategies, and to improve instructional delivery and learning outcomes of Columbia University students from all disciplines.

Muriel Miguel wins Guggenheim fellowship

CCOHR was very pleased to learn that Muriel Miguel, founding member and Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater and a 2013 Summer Institute instructor, received a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship. Sara Sinclair, a 2013 Summer Institute Fellow, Oral History Master of Arts alum, and current Project Coordinator for CCOHR's Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, conducted a public interview with Muriel, which you can watch below. In this post, she reminiscences about Muriel as a storyteller.

I met Muriel Miguel in Toronto through Native Earth Performing Arts. I was an actor participating in a week long workshop of a new play that Muriel was directing. We met again in New York at the American Indian Community House almost ten years later. I had just moved to the city, wondered whether I might run into Muriel and there she was!

We got to chatting and I told that I was in the city studying oral history. She was interested in hearing more about my studies and in telling me about Spiderwoman Theater’s latest production, a play based on real Native American women’s experiences of violence.  Muriel thought there might be a way for us to work together and I was excited about that and just so happy to reconnect.

Muriel is a great storyteller. She is fun, dynamic, wise and just so fully and richly herself.  She certainly doesn’t need an interviewer to draw her out! I saw my role as more about providing the structure for her to best share her story with the Summer Institute Fellows.  I was proud to be able to facilitate our time together so that she could share her experience as an “Urban Indian” growing up in Brooklyn, New York, a narrative unfamiliar and maybe even unimagined by most.

I love Muriel, and I love that she is a part of my community in New York. We don’t speak often but somehow she always knows when to call and I’m always so moved by her love and humor when she does. I had a son in June and the night before I went into labor, Muriel called to ask how I was. She told me about how she walked her way through her own labor. Her stories give me strength.

Mar. 25: Celebration of Teaching & Learning Symposium: Media Analysis in New Contexts

As part of the Celebration of Teaching & Learning Symposium on March 25, 2016, CCOHR Director Mary Marshall Clark and OHMA student/independent filmmaker Nyssa Chow will participate on a panel with Susan Boynton, Chair of the Columbia Department of Music, entitled Media Analysis in New Contexts.


The Celebration of Teaching and Learning Symposium showcases the innovative efforts of faculty and graduate student instructors who are transforming their courses and pedagogies. We will celebrate the work of Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery grant awardees and showcase recent efforts of exemplary graduate student teachers at Columbia. Check out the full schedule of the symposium!

WHEN: March 25, 2016, 1:15 - 2:15 pm (panel), event runs from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm

WHERE: Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive


Susan Boynton, Chair, Columbia University Department of Music
Mary Marshall Clark, Director, Columbia University Center for Oral History Research
Nyssa Chow, Independent Filmmaker

Session Chair:

Mark Phillipson, Director, Teaching Initiatives and Programs, Center for Teaching and Learning

This panel will illustrate and compare two innovative approaches to multimedia-driven study at Columbia. In a Music Humanities course, undergraduates are analyzing musical passages with unprecedented specificity, through the use of visualization software. In the Oral History Masters of Arts program, deep monitoring of audio tracks is driving new insight into the interview process and its mix of subjectivities. In each case students are producing an ‘overlay’ of media in order to better understand source material, and sharing insights in Columbia’s Mediathread analysis platform. 


Mar. 12: Conference Panel: Transformations in Oral History: Scholarship, Professionalism, and Transdisciplinarity

Join OHMA/CCOHR panelists at the Crossroads: The Future of Graduate History Education conference at Drew University in Madison, NJ on Friday, March 11 - Saturday, March 12.

The event is an exciting opportunity for OHMA to be in conversation with other graduate programs in history and related fields, and discuss how to prepare students for effective practice, careers, and transformations in the discipline.Check out the full schedule. Here are some of the questions the conference intends to address: 

The historical profession, like many academic disciplines, finds itself at a crossroads in training its future practitioners. The intellectual revolutions of the 21st century and transformations in higher education have changed how historians practice their craft as well as career opportunities available to them. How should graduate history education adapt to these developments? Some argue the answer is training for non-academic as well as academic careers. But is job-market adaptation by itself sufficient? What about the intellectual and technological dimensions to history’s transformation in the 21st century? How do these influence career preparation for historians?


Transformations in Oral History: Scholarship, Professionalism, and Transdisciplinarity
10:30-12 p.m. on Saturday, March 12
moderated by Cassie Brand, Drew University

Panel Participants:

Mary Marshall, Co-Founder & Co-Director
Amy Starecheski, Associate Director
Erica Fugger, Alumna & Administrative Coordinator

Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA) is the first program of its kind in the United States: a one-year interdisciplinary M.A. degree training students in oral history method and theory. Through the creation, archiving, and analysis of individual, community, and institutional histories, OHMA seeks to amplify the critical first-person narratives that constitute memory for generations to come.

Since our program’s founding in 2008, OHMA has grown through innovation by the faculty and students, and transformations in the field at large. With diverse backgrounds and interests in applying oral history to contemporary questions, our students undertake training in a variety of approaches, among them history, anthropology, literature, the social sciences, memory studies, and archiving. Their work reflects the core tenets of these fields, while also seeking to carve out new approaches to historical study.

This academic year, we implemented a capstone option to complement our previous thesis requirement. A thesis, which can be academic or creative in genre, is characterized by a sustained critical engagement with a body of scholarly literature in order to answer a defined research question. While many of our students’ theses are public-facing in format, capstone projects are characterized by their use of oral histories primarily to contribute to public life.

With these recent changes in mind, the questions we would like to address are: How do graduate programs remain academically rigorous while offering transdisciplinary engagement? How do students obtain the necessary training to pursue academic careers, while also learning the practical skills to apply these lessons in professional settings?

Jan. 23: One-Day Oral History Training Workshops with OHMA

The Oral History Master of Arts program (OHMA), administered by CCOHR, is hosting a weekend workshop event on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. Join us for an intensive day of oral history workshops with OHMA faculty and alumni! See schedules, room assignments, course descriptions and faculty bios below.


Cost: $30-$100 per workshop, sliding scale.

Please pay what you can. We suggest a minimum of $30 for students, recent graduates, or others who are financially constrained, while we suggest that professionals and those with more resources pay more. All profits from these events go towards our annual merit scholarship for an exceptionally promising incoming OHMA student.

Location: Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University. See below for room assignments, which vary by course [Campus map.]

Schedule at a Glance:


9:30AM-12:30PM Selection of introductory workshops

  • Oral History and Research, with Mary Marshall Clark. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Educators, with Amy Starecheski. Register.
  • Introduction to Community-Based Oral History, with Suzanne Snider. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Writers, with Svetlana Kitto. Register.
  • Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, with Nicki Pombier Berger. Register.


2PM-5PM Selection of focused workshops

  • Oral History and Human Rights Work, with Mary Marshall Clark. Register.
  • Oral History and the Practice of Buddhist Deep Listening, with Erica Fugger. Register.
  • Oral History’s Applications, with Sara Sinclair. Register.
  • Oral History and Documentarywith Suzanne Snider. Register.
  • Archiving Oral Historieswith Sady Sullivan. Register.


Morning Workshops, 9:30AM-12:30PM


Oral History and Research, Mary Marshall Clark
604 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is a form of biographical, social, economic, political and cultural research – contributing to an understanding of the many ways in which the past influences our thinking about the present and the future. This workshop will focus on ways in which oral history as a form of interdisciplinary research can contribute new knowledge and the development of unique primary sources.  Practical aspects of the workshop will include thinking about how to design oral history research projects, and how to read and analyze narrative sources.


Introduction to Oral History for Educators, Amy Starecheski
930 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history can be a powerful tool in the classroom, transforming students into engaged researchers from the elementary grades through graduate school.  This workshop will provide a focused introduction to oral history specifically tailored to the needs of educators. Participants will be guided through the process of designing and executing an oral history project and thinking through how to use oral history to meet their teaching goals. This workshop is suitable for educators working in formal and informal settings, with any age group, and across the disciplines.


Introduction to Community-Based Oral History, Suzanne Snider
607 Schermerhorn Hall

Have you been dreaming about starting an oral history project in/for your community? This workshop will offer the tools you need to get started, beginning with an introduction to oral history and moving toward our focus on working in and with communities on oral history projects. Using a few specific projects as case studies, we’ll learn how to approach and design a project that emphasizes oral history values and best practices, including collaboration, shared ownership, and reciprocity. We’ll discuss common pitfalls, as well. Participants will be provided with resources including project design worksheets, sample community partnership contracts, and examples of project cards. This workshop is for community advocates, community historians, beginning oral historians, among others. All are welcome.


Introduction to Oral History for Social Change, Nicki Pombier Berger
934 Schermerhorn Hall

Are you passionate about social change, and interested in how to use oral historical practice for your cause? In this workshop, we will look at how the tools and ethics of oral history can be used to advance specific change-goals. We’ll spend the first half of the workshop reviewing projects that have leveraged oral history for social change, identifying what oral history contributes to, or where it differs from, other forms of documentation or storytelling modes. The second half of the workshop will be dedicated to developing participants’ own ideas for using oral history to advocate for specific social change. Participants will leave with a project design outline and resources for developing their ideas beyond the workshop.   


Introduction to Oral History for Writers, Svetlana Kitto
832 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is an interdisciplinary tool that has the power to bring more complexity, multivocality and urgency to writing of any genre. For writers interested in documenting unheard voices, undertold stories, or generally enlivening their work with the historical phenomenon of everyday speech, this workshop will introduce oral history interviewing techniques as both a theoretical and practical mode of writing about the world. Students will practice interviewing and writing using oral history methods, as well as read texts from a variety of periods and perspectives to get them thinking about their own complex points-of-view in this historical moment.


Afternoon Workshops: 2PM-5PM


Archiving Oral Histories, Sady Sullivan
930 Schermerhorn Hall

Archives are where societal memory is preserved for generations to come. Archives can also be hubs for community engagement. In this workshop, we will discuss how to ensure that the interviews you collect today will be available in 5, 25, 150+ years. Participants will learn best practices for storing both born-digital and analog collections; tips and tools for keeping a project organized; why “metadata is a love note to the future”; and what to consider when donating a collection to an archival repository. We will explore open source digital tools for building online archives, and discuss how to ethically consider issues of privacy as well as how critical librarianship brings social justice principles into the work of libraries and archives.


Oral History and Documentary, Suzanne Snider
607 Schermerhorn Hall

For those interested in oral history and other nonfiction forms (film, audio, print), this workshop explores the dynamic possibilities that await us at the intersection of oral history and documentary. How can we most effectively and ethically combine a longform interview practice with the editorial rigor at the heart of radio, film, and journalism? How can documentarians preserve and make use of oral history practices and values as guiding editorial principles? What kinds of compromises are necessary when it comes to editing interviews that we have come to appreciate, uncut? We will discuss motives and methods for bring an oral history sensibility to our documentary work (or vice versa) while surveying inspiring examples of hybrid forms. This workshop is appropriate for documentarians, oral historians, and those with a general interest in nonfiction. All are welcome.


Oral History and Human Rights Work, Mary Marshall Clark
604 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral history is increasingly used in human rights work to engage in historical dialogues, advocacy and the gathering of testimony in societies engaged in conflict and post-conflict situations.   Oral history methodologies can be used by human rights advocates in multiple ways: a) to discover the real, daily life needs of vulnerable people, b) to advocate for social and political change based on that real knowledge; c) to develop ways of engaging, through in-depth interviews, across lines of social and cultural difference; and d), to construct opportunities for critical dialogues based on models of social change that emerge out of oral history stories about the past, the present and visions of the future. In this workshop we will discuss models of oral historical dialogues in human rights work, breaking down the components of successful transformational practice. Participants are encouraged to bring their own experiences in human rights and oral history work to the workshop.


Oral History and the Practice of Buddhist Deep Listening, Erica Fugger
832 Schermerhorn Hall

Oral historian Jacquelyn Hall once defined the term “deep listening” as: “Listening beyond and beneath words. Listening for layers of meaning, for the cacophony of voices embedded in every story… Listening, too, for the unscripted, for the memories that hurtle to the surface for the first time, with a force that can make you rage or weep.” Comparably, Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh grounds the humanistic application of deep listening within the ability of the listener to relieve the suffering of the storyteller by offering undivided attention and compassion. This workshop will therefore examine the convergence of oral history methodology with the Buddhist practices of mindfulness, body awareness, and meditations on compassion. It will explore techniques for fostering a sense of openness to rapport-building, emotional exchanges, and extended periods of deep listening. Participants are encouraged to attend the workshop well-rested and be eager to engage in interactive exercises.


Oral History’s Applications, with Sara Sinclair
934 Schermerhorn Hall

Once largely viewed as a resource for future researchers and relegated to the archives, today oral history practice is more often directed towards active outcomes. In this workshop we will consider how to engage different aspects of our work, and use different editing practices, to apply our interviews to different forms, including literary narrative, teaching tool and materials for advocacy. We will ask how the impact we want our interviews to have should direct the forms we present them in. We will get specific as we play with narratives to convert them from one form to another, thinking though how various incarnations lend themselves to various intentions, and reach different audiences. Throughout, we will contemplate how to stay true to oral history’s distinct ethics and ideals while pursuing various expressions of it. This workshop is suitable for people just beginning an oral history project, or for those interested in putting an existing collection of interviews to work in new ways.

For more information, including faculty bios, visit OHMA's website.

Oct. 1: Doing Recent History: History that Talks (and Tweets!) Back

This event is sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives.

Why is writing living history challenging?
What are the ethics of doing research on social media?
Do historians watch enough TV?!

Join Tenured Radical Claire Bond Potter, editor of Doing Recent History; historian and Politico columnist David Greenberg; and archivists Laura Hart & Nancy Kaiser, in this lively discussion.

more info


Thursday, October 1, 2015
Butler Library, Room 523 - 535 West 114th Street

This event is free and open to the public.

Sept. 8-12: Women Mobilizing Memory: Collaboration and Co-Resistance

This conference, hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Difference, is co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research.

Women Mobilizing Memory

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 (All day) to Saturday, September 12, 2015 (All day)

Please join us:

On September 8, from 5 to 7 p.m., a reception marks the opening of "Collaborative Archives: Connective Histories," an exhibit at Leroy Neiman Gallery on the Columbia campus featuring an international group of women artists. This will be followed from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. by a conversation with the artists moderated by Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts. The digital catalogue for this exhibit is available here and the exhibit poster here.

On September 10, from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. in Buell Hall on the Columbia campus there will be a conference consisting of three public roundtables featuring a distinguished group of international scholars and artists. One roundtable will address protest actions and their efficacy, ranging from the "Saturday Mothers" to "Black Lives Matter;" a second will discuss strategies for mobilizing political action around memory sites in Santiago, Istanbul, and New York; and a third will explore how lives touched by political violence and social death can be reanimated through writing and art. The full conference program for the day's events is available here and the conference poster here.


Women Mobilizing Memory,” a three-year working group of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference, explores the politics of memory in the aftermath of the atrocities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in comparative global perspective with unique attention to the effects of social difference. Focusing on the shaping role of gender in the structures of political violence, the working group analyzes the strategies by which women artists, scholars and activists have succeeded in mobilizing the memory of gender-based violence to promote redress, social justice, and a democratic future.  Looking at gendered memory politics in several sites around the world, the group has analyzed these in a broader connective context. From the fortieth anniversary of the Chilean coup, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and cycles of violence against indigenous and minority peoples in Chile, Turkey and the United States, it has featured activist and future-oriented modes of representation and commemoration.  At the same time, it probes the limits of comparative and connective approaches to memory politics.  Based in the Humanities and the Arts, the group looks closely at the political efficacy of various media of memory, ranging from visual art, literature, journalism and performance to museums, memorials, and street actions. What role do these various media play in combatting the erasure of past violence from current memory and in creating new visions and new histories for future generations? The collaborations among the participants in the working group, their face-to-face as well as virtual meetings and their constructive conversations and disagreements, aim to create a space of solidarity and co-resistance that can lay the groundwork for a more hopeful future.

The “Women Mobilizing Memory” working group consists of scholars and graduate students representing fields ranging from history, anthropology, and sociology to literature, performance and visual arts, as well as artists, writers, curators and journalists from the United States, Chile and Turkey.  The group met in Santiago, Chile in 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey in 2014 and it will meet in New York in September 2015, bringing its questions to bear on memory politics, gender and social difference in the contemporary United States. 

The group will meet at Columbia and New York University September 8 - 12 to discuss work in progress; it will visit  memory sites in Harlem and lower Manhattan; and it will sponsor a number of public events:

 •An exhibition at Leroy Neiman Gallery on “Collaborative Archives: Connective Histories,” from September 7 - 18 featuring visual artwork and oral histories by New York artists Susan Meiselas, Lorie Novak, Simone Leigh, and Kameelah Janan Rasheed; Berlin-based Armenian artist Silvina der Meguerditchian; Santiago-based artist Paz Errazuriz; and Istanbul artists Aylin Tekiner and the Truth Justice Memory Center.  The exhibit will partner with community arts organizations in Harlem. 

•Exhibition opening reception September 8, 5-7 p.m., followed by an artists’ roundtable discussion moderated by Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts, from 7:30-9 p.m. in East Gallery Buell Hall.

A second part of the exhibition, “CHILE: 40 Years of Struggle and Resistance,” will be on view at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, NYU, 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, from September 11- October 23. Opening Reception, September 11, 7 p.m.

•A one-day public conference on September 10, 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., featuring roundtable discussions on “Performances of Protest and Activism,” “Mobilizing Memory Sites: Istanbul, Santiago, New York,” and “Intimate Archives/Political Violence.” Speakers will include, Meltem Ahiska, Ayse Gul Altinay, Tina Campt, Hazel Carby, Maria José Contreras, Milena Grass, Andreas Huyssen, Kellie Jones, Nancy Kricorian, Alisa Solomon, Leo Spitzer, Marita Sturken, Diana Taylor, Carla Shedd, and Deborah Willis. 

•A campus and community-wide Wishing Tree commemorative event on September 8 and 10, 6-7 p.m., memorializing and honoring the victims of violent histories. 

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Oral History Launch

CCOHR is pleased to announce the launch of the Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, developed in partnership with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Three oral histories are available on the Rauschenberg Foundation website, each of which includes a transcript, documentary photographs, and a video clip. During the summer of 2015, more interviews will gradually be published on the Foundation's website. If an interview was filmed, complete footage of the published oral history are available at the Foundation Archives.

To learn more, please visit the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation website.