This project features conversations with Essential Workers. These interviews were conducted in April, 2020, and of course the constant changes in protocols and what we know about this pandemic have made it difficult to document. In April, the situation in the region was quite different than it is today. Now we have few hospitalizations; and now, mid June, 2020, we are reopening the economy. Then, just two months ago, more people were in the hospital, and there were many, many unknowns: the essential workers – including grocery store employees, medical personnel, first responders, post office employees and others who deliver products and work on the front lines of commerce and customer care – were dealing with something they had never experienced.
Listen to a doctor, a nurse, a postmaster, and a farmer/farm store owner/chef as they try to figure it out and tell us what is happening and how they feel about their work. (Note, the longer interviews will soon be posted online at the University of Massachusetts and linked here. These selections on this page are edited from the longer interviews.)
Dr. Jennifer Nykiel’s interview:
Farmer Paul Tawcynski’s interview:
Postmaster Noreen Forfa’s interview:
Nurse Jennifer Charboneau’s interview:
The NAACP Oral History Project is online, at the University of Massachusetts, and linked to our site. (https://www.theoralhistorycenter.org/their-stories-the-berkshire-county-naacp/)
Here is the place we will put podcasts from the project
We begin with Shirley Edgerton (here above, seen on the right):
From the National Park Service, National Heritage Areas. Episode 3.2 – Watch Night (Freedom’s Eve) in Gullah Geechee Communities
In Episode 3.2, Jules speaks with Heather Hodges, Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, about efforts in the Corridor to support and revive Gullah Geechee Watch Night traditions.
Spanning 425 miles of coastline and sea islands from North Carolina to Florida, the Corridor’s mission is to support and celebrate the culture and history of the Gullah Geechee people, who are descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. One of those traditions is Watch Night, also known as Freedom’s Eve. In the midst of the Civil War, people gathered together in churches on the night of December 31, 1862, to await midnight, when the Emancipation Proclamation was to free millions of enslaved people in the South.
Over the years, many African American churches have continued to hold Watch Night services each year. However, over time the connection between the New Year and the Emancipation Proclamation was largely forgotten. Heather explains how the Corridor has recently been working with community partners to reestablish Watch Night’s historical ties and revive its Gullah Geechee traditions.
From Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Director of Preservation:
From ACCENTS: Voices of our Immigrant Neighbors, a Berkshire Eagle Podcast by Reinout van Wagtendonk
Vivian Enchill, BCC Alumna. Above, a link to an interview with Vivian, who was interviewed as part of the ACCENTS project of the Berkshire Eagle. We were fortunate to work with the journalist who created this podcast series – he taught a workshop for practitioners of oral history in the Berkshires and NW Connecticut.
Learning about podcasts and oral history
Radio journalists teach our interns about radio storytelling and lead our workshops
When we first opened our Center here at BCC, Mark Mills, Bloomberg Radio journalist, who also does podcasts for the Berkshire Eagle, taught our Oral History Center interns about podcasting.
During that first summer, 2017, Rachel Levin and Chanel Palmer, Williams College interns at the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC, interviewed Margaret Cherin, Archivist at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
Here is the interview conducted by students Rachel and Chanel, with Margaret Cherin, College Archivist, and her student assistant Molly McGowan, who discuss their Oral History Project and share what they learned along the way.
IT WAS A GREAT START!
HOUSATONIC VALLEY REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL ORAL HISTORY FESTIVAL AND THE ORAL HISTORY CENTER COLLABORATE
EARLY ON, we worked with History Professor Peter Vermilyea and Career Experience Coordinator Mary O’Neill at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School. The idea was to help with Prof. Vermilyea’s Oral History Festival, to create a podcast with the interviews conducted by his students. We had a little help from another radio journalist and musician. Rebecca Sheir and Eric Shimalonis (Circle Round) taught director Judith Monachina and Abby Adam, a student (above left, pictured with Mary O’Neill), new skills. Abby then created this podcast using interviews students conducted with alumni/ae who had graduated in the 1950’s:
Here is the team again, two years later. History Professor Peter Vermilya, Oral History Intern/HVRHS Senior Valerie Lenis, Housatonic Heritage Executive Director Dan Bolognani, and HH Oral History Center Director Judith Monachina. Valerie and her history class interviewed alumni/ae who graduated from HVRHS in the 1970’s. Photo by Mary O’Neill, HVRHS Career Experience Coordinator.
In the spring of 2020, student Valerie Lenis created this podcast:
Early Summer, 2019, Reinout van Wagtendonk, below, 40-year radio journalist and podcaster, presented workshops on Making a Podcast, for the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC, on the Main Campus. Reinout has worked as a professional journalist for Dutch radio. His workshop gave us the essentials, and we were off and running.
In April, 2020, the Oral History Center hosted three virtual podcasting workshops again, this time with two leaders: Reinout van Wagtendonk, (See links on this page), and Bob Shepherd, Audio Engineer.
Here is a link to another podcast in a series that Reinout created for The Berkshire Eagle, with Viktoria Seavey, now a life coach, originally from Hungary.
A FEW OTHER PODCASTS (we will add more!)
National Park Service
Here is a link to the Studs Terkel Radio Archives
LSU Harry T. Williams Center for Oral History
American Social History Project Podcast
A link to Digital Omnium, Survey of Oral History Podcasts (The Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, including their own, The Wisdom Project
Listen to past Oral History Association president Annie Valk talk about the evolution of oral history practice, via podcast at the Center for Oral History Presents
And here is one from National Public Radio, The Hidden Brain: