On this page, find resources to begin your Branch Oral History Project. These materials were presented by Judy Adams at the 2011 U.S. Congress.
Excerpts from Judy's oral history work with peace women is on our web site here.
Why Oral History?
As WILPF approaches its 100th anniversary, it’s important for each branch to think about collecting, organizing, and preserving its written records. Now is a good time to think about using these materials to draft a branch chronology or written history summarizing your branch’s founding and activities.
But we must also preserve another precious part of our history, in addition to written documents: the personal stories of our members, in their own voices, of how they came to peace work, what they’ve done in the struggle for peace and justice, and what sustains them. In this workshop we hope to motivate you and give you the practical tools and resources to organize a branch oral history project, in audio and/or video format.
Our recommendation is that branches contact the Swarthmore College Peace Collection as a final archival repository for their branch papers and oral histories. Swarthmore will provide information on what materials and formats are acceptable, how to organize them and keep them safe until they are transferred there. We can’t preserve these important materials indefinitely in our garages and basements! At Swarthmore they will be part of the U.S. WILPF section collection and available for researchers.
Your project will not only add to the historical record, but you can also use excerpts from the oral histories creatively to inspire others, including younger women in your community, to become part of WILPF, and possibly raise funds for your branch’s work.
What one branch did to preserve our members’ voices: report on the Women’s Peace Oral History project (Palo Alto/Peninsula branch, CA)
How we involved younger community members in the project:
- Students received academic credit through Stanford and San Jose State for oral history classes co-taught by the project coordinator. Students conducted an in-depth (3-5 hour) oral history interview of a WILPF member, which they indexed and transcribed. Community members could audit the two Stanford classes. Each class gave a campus presentation.
- Students also helped prepare a slide show on WILPF and the branch, which led to community presentations (see below).
How we used the oral histories to create community interest in WILPF and peace activism:
- created a slide show using excerpts from the oral histories and photographs to present to local high schools and colleges
- created a booklet on the project for a community event honoring the interviewees and other local peace activists and organizations
- commissioned a local women’s reader’s theater group to do a public performance with projections of the slide show images as a “backdrop”
- the project coordinator, while an Affiliated Scholar at Stanford’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, gave various talks on campus and presentations to fellow scholars
- published Peacework: Oral Histories of Women Peace Activists in 1991 (Twayne Press Oral History Series) and gave a local bookstore reading
- contacted local newspapers to generate publicity for the project
- listed our project in the Oral History Association’s bibliography
- housed the project’s tape collection in the Stanford University Archives and Archives of Recorded Sound so that researchers would have access
- arranging for digitization of the interview tapes, and creating finding aids for the transcripts and related documents that are currently at Stanford.
- setting project goals and forming an oral history committee
- project planning – budget, recruiting and training interviewers and transcribers
- interview planning – sample interviewee biographical information form, questions and interview topics, suggestions for preliminary interviews and critique sessions
- proper labeling and preservation of recording media
- indexing and transcribing the interviews
- references for other published and online resource materials
- sample releases, including final release to Swarthmore College Peace Collection (and contact information for Swarthmore)