OHMAR (Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region) presented its annual Forrest Pogue award to Judith Knudsen at our spring annual meeting, held on April 24 and 25 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. The Pogue award recognizes lifetime achievement in the field of oral history. It is named after Forrest C. Pogue, an oral history pioneer among whose many contributions were conducting interviews with soldiers during the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.
For nineteen years Judith Knudsen has been manager of the special collections at the Arlington Public Library, formerly called the Virginia Room, and now named the Center for Local History (CLH). In that role she has overseen an extensive oral history program, including management of oral interviewers, arranging for transcriptions and processing, as well as conducting many of the interviews herself. Through her efforts there are over 400 interview transcripts available for researchers. The projects she has organized and arranged include interviews relating to the county’s Jamestown celebration and another, Arlington Remembers 9/11, that includes thirty interviews with firefighters, policemen and other citizens five years after that memorable and traumatic event in Arlington. Her oral history collections include interviews with many county elected and appointed officials, with civic activists, educators, planners, developers and ordinary residents.
An especially notable achievement has been securing oral interviews with business and civic leaders in Arlington’s long-standing African American community where there is a dearth of written and documentary history. A particularly important video interview took place with Dr. Leonard Muse, now in his 90s, who has operated a pharmacy in the historically black Green Valley neighborhood for many decades. She also secured an interview with a former resident – now over 100 years old — who was brought to Arlington as a role model and principal of the area’s segregated black high school, and who currently lives in Oklahoma.
Knudsen is also leading the transition to the digital age for the Center for Local History. Fifty-two of the interviews are now digitized and the CLH collection is being expanded by the library to include a Digital Projects Lab. Under Knudsen’s planning and management it will open in the summer of 2014 and provide a space and resources where residents can share family photographs with CLH and record oral histories.
Knudsen is a former president and executive board member of OHMAR. Founded in 1974, the organization is a regional affiliate of the Oral History Association. Its members include librarians, archivists, independent businesspeople, and scholars who are engaged in oral history research. It holds an annual conference every spring and offers workshops in the fall in locations within its region, which stretches from Virginia to New York State. For more information contact David J. Caruso, Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; dcaruso [at] chemheritage [dot] org