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Community-Based Oral Histories: Lessons from the NYPL Community Oral History Project

Tuesday, April 11, 12:30 p.m.

King Juan Carlos I Center
53 Washington Sq S, Room 404W
New York, NY 10012

The New York Public Library's Community Oral History Project is an initiative taking place throughout the NYPL system that aims to document, celebrate, and make accessible the rich history of New York City's unique communities. Born out of the NYPL Adult Programming office, the collection model builds a corps of citizen oral historians who document their own communities by reaching out to narrators in their networks. Since 2013, over 300 volunteers have collected more than 1,000 audio interviews. From their efforts came the development of Memory Circles, which have worked to collect group stories from the community about what it means to be Latinx American in New York City. Digital tools have also been developed by NYPL Labs, the Library's digital libraries team, to crowdsource annotations and transcripts. This effort sits at the intersection of the Library's public programs, research collections, and digital sphere. Project director Alexandra Kelly will present and then lead discussion around (1) the project model-- surprises, emerging best practices, and the ways it has evolved within each community and (2) challenges around maintaining oral history standards in a large-scale volunteer-driven project.

Alexandra Kelly is the Manager of Adult Programming and Outreach Services at The New York Public Library where she introduced and now directs the NYPL Community Oral History Project. Previously, she worked as a Facilitator at StoryCorps and received an MA from the School of Media Studies at The New School. She has also coordinated several youth media projects around the city, including an oral history project in Crown Heights, The Engage Media Lab program at The New School, and a documentary filmmaking project at Brooklyn Children's Museum.