Access and Inclusion in Oral History – 2019 Annual Conference

We at OHMAR are proud to share the call for papers for our 2019 conference, “Access and Inclusion in Oral History.”  The conference, co-sponsored by the Monmouth University Department of History and Anthropology, will be held Thursday, April 18 – Friday, April 19 on the MU campus in West Long Branch, NJ.

We hope to address topics such as how the oral history community can ensure that individuals with unique needs, including but not limited to visual, hearing, mobility, or cognitive challenges, are able to participate in oral history as both interviewers and narrators? How do we share oral histories, both in brick and mortar archives and on the web, in broadly accessible formats? In what ways is the oral history community documenting the disability rights movement? The experience of those with special needs? Who is the audience for such interviews and how do we prioritize levels of accessibility when resources to do so are limited? We welcome proposals for traditional paper presentations, roundtables, posters, and more. We are even inviting submissions for our conference program cover design! You can access the full call for papers here. The OHMAR board wrote this call for papers with input from Monmouth University’s Director of Disability Services, Title IX and ADA/ 504 Coordinator, and Vice President for Information Management.

How did OHMAR select this topic? While I like to think we oral historians are generally an inclusive and conscientious bunch, the logistics of access and inclusion as they relate to the unique circumstances outlined above really came to the forefront for us, as a board, recently; when in the Fall of 2017 we were asked if we could secure sign language interpreters for hearing impaired attendees to our Fall Workshop on Immigration and Oral History. We were happy to accommodate this request, and it really got us thinking about how those with hearing impairments might use existing oral histories, or act as narrators or translators in the creation of new ones. Then, at our 2018 annual conference, there was a truly thought provoking panel discussion during which a wheelchair bound student discussed the obstacles he encountered while participating in his class’s oral history project. We were left, once again, pondering what we, as individual oral historians and as an organization, could do to remove barriers for those with unique physical needs. These yearlong discussions led to this conference theme, and we look forward to continuing our internal conversations with you.

Melissa Ziobro is the Specialist Professor of Public History at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, and an at-large board member for OHMAR.