A tool for teaching students to make oral histories heard

OHLA’s SHARE Civil Rights Oral History Project documents the history of African Americans in Southwest Michigan.

Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA) is taking undergrads out of the classroom to learn from people in the community and document their stories in engaging and shareable media projects.

The project, recently launched by the Great Lakes College Association, is developing interdisciplinary curricula and toolkits to facilitate community-based student research and digital storytelling — and relies on Pop Up Archive to simplify its workflow and facilitate collaboration.

So far, OHLA students have documented inequities in housing policy in Dayton, OH, youth radio in Meadville, PA, and African American communities in southwest Michigan. OHLA has ambitious plans to bring together diverse communities and disciplines as well as the faculty and staff at the Great Lakes College Association’s 13 member colleges.


“For me, everything begins with Pop Up Archive,” says Brooke Bryan, OHLA Co-Director.

“We’ve found that using Pop Up as a collaborative interface allows faculty fast access to narratives that come in as their students conduct interviews, and the private server fosters collaboration and team-based close listening as we edit and refine the automatic transcripts in Pop Up’s wonderful line-by-line interface.”


Like most oral history projects, OHLA collects lots of content-rich, long-form interviews, which can be cumbersome to work with and difficult to navigate. “Not very many people listen to oral histories unless they are digested into documentaries or podcasts,” says Brooke.

Using Pop Up Archive’s transcription, time-stamping, and indexing features, OHLA is able to map out and parse their audio files. Pairing Pop Up Archive with a podcast hosting app called Podigee, OHLA segments its long-form interviews into tagged audio chapters and directs listeners to particular topics of interest.

“This is a great workflow for lean and mean projects that want to publish a series of interviews quickly, while facilitating access to particular moments in each interview across the collection,” Bryan says.

OHLA is also pairing Pop Up Archive with an app called Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, OHMS, to publish audio transcripts to WordPress and create a searchable online research collection that houses all of its oral history projects. This repository will serve as a pedagogical model for interactive learning between students and communities.

The OHLA team has already started building a web hub to showcase faculty and student work. Check out their progress at the new OHLA website.

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