Lees-McRae to host oral history collaboration with University of Florida, February 5 - 10

January 30, 2015

By Hayden Moses ’16

From February 5 – 10, Lees-McRae students and faculty will participate in a University of Florida-led (UF) oral history research and interview collaboration designed to preserve the cultural history of Southern Appalachian people, specifically residents of Avery County and the surrounding area.

The Sam Proctor Oral History Program, of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is spearheading this initiative. The program, founded in 1967, aims to “gather, preserve, and promote living histories of individuals from all walks of life.” The program is sending a team of students and alumni to conduct this project in tandem with students of history and English at Lees-McRae.

“We’re glad to partner with the Sam Proctor Oral History Program of UF,” said Dr. Michael Joslin, professor of English at Lees-McRae. “We look forward to creating a collection of personal reminiscences that will help us better understand the history of the college, and the larger Banner Elk and Avery County area.”

On Thursday, February 5, delegates from UF will arrive at the Stephenson Center for Appalachia on the campus of Lees-McRae. They will lead a training session on Friday, February 6 from 12 - 4 p.m. in Cannon Classroom 8 for all Lees-McRae student volunteers. Interviews will take place in Carson Library on Saturday, and on the following Sunday and Monday project volunteers will travel to collect additional interviews from those in the area who are of limited mobility and cannot come to campus.

The collected interviews, once transcribed, will reside both at Lees-McRae and the UF. The project participants will present their efforts to the public after the project is complete.

“The project is a chance for students to learn about the craft of oral history, the history of Lees-McRae and public history as a career choice,” said Dr. Scott Huffard, assistant professor of history at Lees-McRae. The field of public history, which includes oral history as well as a plethora of multidisciplinary subjects such as archival work, policy advising, curation of museums and historic sites and community activism, gained traction in the early sixties and has since continued to grow.

The connection between Lees-McRae and UF goes beyond an interest in the preservation of oral history. Dr. Huffard, who is also the program coordinator for Lees-McRae’s newly reinstated history program, earned both his master’s degree and PhD in American History from UF in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

For more information about this collaboration or Lees-McRae’s history program, please contact Dr. Huffard at huffardr@lmc.edu.

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