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Apr. 12 | HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit

  • Union Theological Seminary, Social Hall, Columbia University 3041 Broadway New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
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WHEN: Thursday, April 12, 2018, 5:00 - 8:00 pm

WHERE: The Social Hall, Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway at 121st Street

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, an interactive exhibit will be curated by the students and faculty of Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts program. Please RSVP on our Eventbrite page.

From grade school we learn that History is the Thing that Happened. The bell rings and we leave History in a closed textbook, a specific classroom, and carry on with our day. We consume media, we process news, we have conversations, we think about tomorrow. But in doing so we are participating in history: constantly orienting ourselves in relation to existing and selected narratives.

HEAR & NOW is a multimedia pop-up presenting the fieldwork of scholars who are also activists, researchers who are also storytellers, oral historians who are also community members. We, the members of OHMA, are intent on confronting our own roles, rights, and responsibilities as producers of knowledge, and urgently embrace the changeability of history. In many ways, this exhibit is an intervention. The telling of the past has been actively and hegemonically filtered, but we can work to recuperate silenced narratives and to change what capital-H History remembers moving forward. Let HEAR & NOW represent one of many efforts this year to recuperate these narratives.

Exhibits include:

Buried Alive by Elyse Blennerhassett
Based on years of phone calls with two men who were sentenced to juvenile life without parole 30 years ago, “Buried Alive” examines the relationship between place, memory, and desire within the US prison landscape, through her film “Never Enough Time” and the art and writings of incarcerated men.

Comparative Classrooms: Teaching to Transgress by Valerie Fendt
How do we value education, who benefits from it, and what are the impacts of Columbia classes inside of state correctional facilities?

Spectrum of Spirituality by Alissa Funderburk
Encounter an array of spiritual beliefs and practices by listening to personal accounts and placing your own memories on the spectrum of spirituality.

'I'll Fly Away': An Oral History of Love, Loss and Leave-taking by Rozanne Gooding Silverwood
"I'm going to be a mess talking about this." Listening in on one family's conversations about death.

Ballots Over Bars by Elly Kalfus
You are invited to sit in on an imagined meeting of the MCI-Norfolk Lifers Group – come and listen to formerly incarcerated people in Massachusetts share why they care about the right to vote and how they organized for universal suffrage while in prison.

Restoring Memory by Tomoko Kubota
By colorizing monochrome photos taken before, during, and after World War II, the survivors of the War start to restore vivid memories of their daily lives.

The Picture the Homeless Oral History Project by Lynn Lewis
By inviting engagement with its narrators and archival materials, the Picture the Homeless Oral History Project asks visitors to move beyond empathy and the framework of charity to understand that homelessness is a social justice question.

Why We Stayed: The Experiences of Poland's Remaining Jews, 1945-2008 by Filip Mazurczak
Presenting the experiences of five Polish Jews born between 1932 and 1940 who still live in Poland, this exhibit challenges the false narrative that Jewish life in Poland ended in 1945 or in 1968.

Who/What/Where? by Kyna Patel
This participatory exhibit invites visitors to reflect upon the people, places, or things that have helped shape who they are today in a life history interview context.

Down to the Docks: The Longshoreman Speaks Up by Meave Sheehan
This is an investigation into the figure of the dock worker, also known as a longshoreman or stevedore, who was once a formidable local archetype in the New York area.

ABANDONED: Stories from Survivors of Gun Violence by Holly Werner-Thomas
The stories of survivors of gun violence are not easy to listen to, but they’re important to hear.

Harlem Small Business by Yameng Xia
The Harlem Small Business exhibit presents two small business stories to inspire high school students to learn from their spirits.

Come, to the love of Christ by Yiyi Zhang
An intimate space and a window into the lives of Christians from different traditions whose stories shared a touch of joy and sorrow, a struggle of faith and doubt, yet, embraced by a love of Christ.

Carmine's House by Dian Zi
Experience life through the eyes of Carmine, a son, a brother, an adult with autism.

This event is FREE, open to the public, accessible, and open to all ages! Refreshments will be served. We will have tablets and MP3 players and laptops and many ways to listen. We also invite attendees to bring their favorite headphones and their smartphones to engage with some of our web-based exhibits

Please RSVP on the Eventbrite page.

OHMA is the first program of its kind: a one-year interdisciplinary Master of Arts degree training students in oral history method and theory.

This annual exhibit is the culmination of our students’ work in the year-long Oral History Fieldwork, Archiving, and Documentation course. HEAR & NOW was created by the 2017-2018 cohort of the Oral History MA program, and curated by OHMA Co-Director Amy Starecheski and current students Desmond Austin-Miller, Samantha Lombard, and Carlin Zia. Questions? Please reach out via 

Special thanks to Gerry Albarelli, Jamie Beckenstein, Nyssa Chow, Mary Marshall Clark, Whitney Dow, Alex Gil, Anne Hoffman, Bill McAllister, Kimberly Springer, Zoë West, Peter Bearman and the rest of the team at INCITE, and the Tenement Museum for their inspiration, support and teaching. We'd also like to express our gratitude to Union Theological Seminary and the Facilities and Catering staff in particular for allowing us the use of this beautiful space. This event is supported by the Paul F. Lazarsfeld endowment.

Curators of HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit

DESMOND AUSTIN-MILLER joins the 2017 OHMA cohort as a recent graduate of Lafayette College where he majored in Anthropology & Sociology with a minor in Africana Studies. A native of Washington D.C., Desmond spent his summers in the District working in various spheres of the non-profit scene in education administration and homeless advocacy. Desmond hopes to further explore his research interests at Columbia in human rights activism, homelessness, power, race, and a multitude of other topics through the methodological lens of oral history.

SAMANTHA LOMBARD is from Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College with Bachelor’s degrees in History and Art History in 2016. Samantha’s OHMA thesis uses oral history narrative to tell a nuanced story of a Yiddish-speaking immigrant neighborhood in Boston in the early to mid-twentieth century.

CARLIN ZIA comes to OHMA from a literature background, having graduated with distinction in English from Yale College. She brings with her a love of language and narrative and writing, and is excited to get up to speed on social science theory and audio/visual mediums. For the last year she has been working on a project with her Chinese-born grandfather to record his life story, and in so doing to engage more deliberately with her own Asian\American identity. After a couple months she learned that what she was doing was a real thing and it was called Oral History. The rest is ongoing.

AMY STARECHESKI is a cultural anthropologist and oral historian who co-directs the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University. In 2016 she was awarded the Sapiens-Allegra “Will the Next Margaret Mead Please Stand Up?” prize for public anthropological writing. She received a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was a Public Humanities Fellow. Her book, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, was published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press.