As a future educator, who is has a minor in special education, I was especially grateful to have the opportunity to attend this year’s annual conference, “Access and Inclusion in Oral History” at Monmouth University. It started off with keynote speakers Brian Greenwald and Jean Bergey, Director and Associate Director, respectively, of the Drs. John S. and Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center at Gallaudet University. Their discussion provided a unique perspective on oral histories with deaf narrators and/or interviewers, which they prefer to call “narrative histories.” Their work focuses specifically on deaf life in New York City during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The first morning had concurrent sessions on topics about nontraditional communication, cultural transmissions, reflections in oral history, and the New York Public Library oral history project of the disability experience. Each of these panels inspired attendees to consider how individuals with unique physical needs can utilize the methods of oral histories. This theme continued throughout the day in the speech given by the Martha Ross Memorial Prize Recipient, Tammy Clemons, and the afternoon round of concurrent sessions on the first day.
For me, the lesson of accommodation stood out the most during the Accommodations in Project Design panel. The panelists talked about effective methods for incorporating inclusion and barriers for inclusion in their oral history projects.
The second day started off with a brief introduction from the Monmouth University Department of History and Anthropology Chair, Dr. Richard Veit. Following the introduction was the morning round of sessions. I had the chance to sit in on the panel which described the student perspective of researching and conducting oral histories. Each of the three students gave an in-depth insight into their oral history projects and the inclusion variables in their projects. I thought it was great that OHMAR provides a platform for students to present their work.
After a brief break, two concurrent workshops ended the conference: one on podcasting and oral history, and one on oral history basics. Though this was my last conference as an undergraduate student (which was bittersweet), I know this won’t be my last OHMAR conference. As a future history/special ed teacher, this conference made me feel confident that I can make oral history work in my classroom for everyone. I look forward to learning about more about oral history at future OHMAR conferences.
Stephanie DeLaat graduated from Monmouth University in 2019 with a degree in History and Education.