The University of Hawai’i at Manoa is re-launching its Oral History Center.
The Ethnic Studies Center for Oral History contains an archive of 800 stories and 30-thousand pages of manuscripts. Amy Starecheski, director of the Oral History Master of Arts program at Columbia University, says the stories can be digitized for a new audience.
“We’re incredibly lucky to have so many decades of oral history work behind us. But those audio tapes still exist and now is the critical time to preserve them and curate them and to bring them back to life.”
Starecheski visited U-H Manoa to conduct an oral history workshop. Ed Noh, school director for the Ka’ohao Public Charter School, was in attendance. He did a U.H. oral history doctoral dissertation featuring his first public school principal when he was a substitute teacher in Washington State.
“Dr. Gloria Mitchell and I met for the first time in Seattle. The year was 1997. And, one day, she called me into her office. She’s a person who has a lot of presence and when she speaks, people tend to listen. And, boy, I thought I was in trouble and, it’s quite the opposite. She just kinda said, ‘teachers like you; seems like the students are responding and we ended up just really being connected ever since that day.”
Mitchell was a mentor and a role model who coaxed Noh into school administration. She provided this quote for his oral history project.
(Mitchell) “You have a little of me in you. It’s sorta like you’re more servant than leader. And, when you’re pushed to be a leader, you’re apprehensive because with leadership comes responsibility.”
(Noh) “I knew I could never be her. You know, she’s African American, she grew up in the South. I’m Korean, born in California and somehow we came together. But, yeah, she had something that transcended culture and color and something that spoke to the heart of the school.”
And, that’s one of the 800 oral history projects at U-H Manoa. Master’s program director Starecheski says social media and the internet expand the possibilities.
“Hearing those voices from the past is incredibly powerful and can animate and re-animate history for people who are living today. Young people who don’t have the opportunity to talk to these older people any more in a way that few other kinds of sources can.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.