2007 - Today
In August 2007, Baylor University welcomed Stephen Sloan as assistant professor in the Department of History and director of the Institute for Oral History. Dr. Sloan brought to Baylor a broad background in teaching and research, in addition to rich experience in oral history practice and program management.
Dr. Sloan maintained the former directors' legacies for creating a broad, yet significant oral history collection, contributing new knowledge to the field, and serving the oral history profession through leadership in its primary organizations. Baylor's oral history collection has grown considerably since 2007, as we opened wide the doors for accessioning interview recordings from new external sources, including additional Baylor faculty and students, community volunteers, and independent oral historians seeking a repository for their research. We kept on refining and updating our online workshop materials, including our Style Guide, while also branching out into content-rich Web-based publications.
BUIOH continued to host Texas Oral History Association and provide leadership to the Oral History Association. In 2013, Dr. Sloan became OHA president, having served OHA as first vice president and vice president the previous two years. He represented Baylor oral history research at International Oral History Association meetings in Mexico, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Argentina, and will participate in the 2014 meeting in Spain. Other international organizations in the UK and Italy invited him to take part in oral history conferences. With his encouragement, Baylor faculty, staff, and graduate students became active presenters in oral history conferences. BUIOH staff made presentations at TOHA, OHA, and IOHA and served as OHA committee members.
Dr. Sloan also took up the mantle as professor for Baylor's oral history graduate seminar. His teaching in the Department of History and his research and publications earned him the position of associate professor in 2013. For spring 2014, he introduced a new undergraduate course in public and oral history.
As our fundamental work prospered, new initiatives abounded under Dr. Sloan's energetic guidance. Below are a few highlights of new projects undertaken by the Institute since 2007. Additional significant events in our history over the past few years are available in our news archives.
Increasing preservation & accessibility of the collectionFrom the start, Dr. Sloan initiated measures to guide the Institute fully into the digital age, toward the goal of providing online access to sound files and transcripts gathered since 1970. Tremendous progress has been made.
In 2008, under the direction of Senior Editor Elinor Mazé, the Institute celebrated the inclusion of its collection finding aid within Baylor Library's Digital Collections. Over the next year, 350 memoir volumes comprising 50,500 typescript pages were digitized through the generous support of Baylor's Ray I. Riley Digitization Center. By February 2009, users of the Baylor oral history collection were able to access transcripts via Baylor's ContentDM online database. This milestone marked the historic shift of the Institute to a full-service reference and research center, adding end-user assistance to our collecting, processing, teaching, studying, and publishing activities.
Beginning in 2008, under the guidance of Baylor Electronic Library's audio engineer, Institute staff assessed the condition of our entire collection of analog sound recordings to prepare for the ultimate digitization of open-reel and cassette tapes. The first prototype workflow for the massive transfer job, which included creation of metadata files and a preservation master as well as access copies, came into being. That workflow has grown tremendously, and the Institute now employs two students with proven technological skills as dedicated processing techs. By the end of 2013, Baylor's oral history collection of five thousand interviews included two thousand born-digital or digitzed-from-analog files. Work continues toward digitization of the remaining three-fifths. In October 2013, the first full-length recordings became available alongside their corresponding transcripts in the online database. Progress toward adding other selected recordings to the online collection continues, with anticipation of large-scale inclusion of audio files by 2016.
In 2012, the Institute accepted the invitation and challenge to beta test OHMS, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, created by Doug Boyd and the University of Kentucky Louis B. Nunn Center. OHMS provides synchronized Web-based access to transcripts and recordings in an attractive format that also includes a topical index to locate testimony clips on specific topics within an interview recording. Steven Sielaff, a former graduate assistant who joined the staff full-time in fall 2013, took the initiative to learn OHMS and investigate ways to integrate the Institute's transcripts and audio files into the software. The launch of Baylor's own localized OHMS system is anticipated for spring 2014.
Fostering partnerships to document, interpret, and present oral historyUnder Dr. Sloan's leadership, BUIOH has enabled and equipped a host of oral historians, from those new to the craft to others who are proven leaders in the field. Dozens of workshops led by the Institute trained novice oral historians and refreshed experienced ones. Collaborative projects were developed to provide funding and processing support for nonprofit community organizations as well as seasoned individual scholars. Below are representative examples of our new partnerships over the past few years.
In January 2009, the Institute welcomed eighty-five guests from across Texas and the US to Future Perfect: Retooling Oral History in the Digital Age. The one-day workshop offered expert training in digital audio and video recording, digitization, digital object management for access and preservation, and digital production. Also that month, the Institute launched its Digital Oral History Workshop within the Workshop on the Web.
From the spring of 2008 to January 2010, the Institute conducted twenty-three oral history workshops under contract with the Texas Historical Commission's Military Sites Program. Titled "Here and There: Recollections of World War II," the workshops were held in sites throughout Texas, including the towns of Center, Paris, Del Rio, Panhandle, San Angelo, Frisco, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Alpine, Tyler, Midland, Brownwood, College Station, Corpus Christi, Sweetwater, San Antonio, Lubbock, Brownsville, Houston, Waco, Palestine, Victoria, and El Paso. Along with the training workshops, the Institute gathered interviews with veterans of World War II and with witnesses to the Texas home front during the war. Leadership in this statewide initiative earned the Institute the Texas Historical Commission's 2011 Award of Excellence in Preserving History and the American Association for State and Local History's 2011 Award of Merit.
In July 2009, BUIOH conducted its first online workshop, "Getting Started with Oral History." Enthusiastic responses from every participant, a waiting list of people in line for our next online training, and our own assessment that the online workshop was just plain fun encouraged BUIOH to offer the two-session, interactive, online introductory workshops twice yearly. By early 2014, 207 men and women, hailing from Texas and thirty other states, had taken part in nine workshops, along with international attendees from three Canadian provinces, Panama, Israel, Egypt, Australia, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands.
Baylor faculty members from various disciplines continued to produce valuable contributions for our oral history collection through our annual Faculty Research Fellow grants. Their research expanded the collection in several new directions. Two additional research grants were added to serve oral historians beyond our campus. Through the annual Community Oral History Grant, initiated in 2010, the Institute enables Texas nonprofit organizations to realize their goals for beginning an oral history collection for their local area. The Charlton Research Grant, first awarded in 2011, provides us an opportunity to collaborate with a peer scholar.
Creating new public programming In 2008, BUIOH received a grant from the Madison A. and Martha Roane Cooper Foundation to study the proliferation and impact of local philanthropy on the Waco community. The project was twofold: revisit the founding of the Cooper Foundation and its enigmatic benefactor, Madison Cooper Jr., and interview modern day philanthropists to discuss their philanthropic philosophies, interests and impacts. With content provided from a series of interviews for each of these foci, Steven Sielaff designed a web portal titled For the Greater Good. Included on each interviewee's page are biographical details as well as samplings from their interviews in both text and audio form.
From 2011 through 2013, Stephen Sloan was the principal investigator and interviewer for the Texas Liberators Project, a major grant funded by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. Baylor graduate student Robert DeBoard assisted in identifying and contacting veterans living in Texas who were liberators of German concentration camps at the end of World War II, video-recorded the interviews with nineteen liberators, and assisted with the transcript processing. Graduate assistant Steven Sielaff served as video editor for the project, creating short trailer clips from the interviews and preserving the digital video. During the process, Steven helped draft a new Institute policy for the preservation of digital video. In addition to the future availability of transcripts through Baylor's digital library, public dissemination of the project results included depositing bound transcript memoirs in major Holocaust-related museums throughout the state and displaying the video trailers on the Texas Liberators web portal.
From August 2010 through December 2013, BUIOH produced one hundred public radio programs based on its oral history collection. Aired on KWBU-FM 103.3 in Waco, the program was titled Living Stories. The creator of the series, our editor, Michelle Holland, also developed the Living Stories web site to archive the programs.