Let’s Get Technical! Recording Oral Histories at SCRC

The George Mason University Oral History Program has come a long way since its inception in 1999, undergoing important developments in terms of recording and editing interviews.

From 1999 until 2004, oral history interviews were audio only recordings captured on audiocassette. Because there was no dubbing equipment, subjects were not sent copies of their interviews-which today is an essential part of the oral history program. Beginning in 2004, audio interviews were digitally recorded and the transition from analog to digital recordings made giving participants copies of their interviews possible. In 2006, the program moved to digital audio/video recordings and since then many oral historians have recorded over 125 interviews with students, staff, alumni, politicians, and others from the local community.

Today’s Setup:

Presently, we conduct oral histories in the Special Collections Research Center Seminar Room in Fenwick Library on Mason’s Fairfax campus. We record video and audio on a Sony Handicam HD video camera, capturing footage on mini-DV cassettes in high definition. Two Audio-technica omnidirectional microphones are used- one for the subject and one for the oral historian- and connected to the camera to record the audio for the interview. As a backup, in case of video loss or sound syncing issues, we record an audio only copy on a Tascam digital audio recorder. Lighting equipment is also used for interviews. We are currently using two Genaray Spectro-LED lights, which are adjusted based on the time of day and weather conditions to accurately light the subject.

Digital recordings are then edited using Adobe Premiere Pro. The mini-DV cassette footage is captured by the Adobe Premiere program and then altered for clarity and a title containing the name of the subject and the date of the interview is placed in the video. After editing, the footage is converted to MP4 video, Quicktime video, and a preservation copy is kept on an external hard drive in case of loss. Exporting the edited footage to Adobe Encore, which is used to make DVD’s, makes one physical copy of an interview. Extra copies of DVD’s are made using a TEAC DVC copier – two are kept in the George Mason University Oral History Program Collection and one is sent to the subject along with a copy of their signed Deed of Gift and a short letter thanking them for their participation.

An example of a typical oral history setup.

The transition from analog to digital recordings has made editing, sharing, and accessing interviews easier for oral historians and researchers, and the ability to store digital and physical copies of interviews aids in the preservation and future access of these materials. Storing oral histories in multiple formats ensures that access is available even when current playback technologies become obsolete.

If you have any questions regarding the George Mason University Oral History Program, contact Emily Curley at ohp@gmu.edu or visit SCRC’s website. Aside from oral histories we conduct, we also have a few other oral history collections.

To view snippets of completed interviews, visit http://oralhistory.gmu.edu/ or our Youtube channel.

 

Charles Magnus, Patriotic Civil War Propaganda Printmaker

This post was written by Leanne Fortney, who began working with us in March as a Graduate Student Assistant within Research Services. Her main responsibilities are safeguarding our materials and assisting patrons with their research needs. She is a mother of two working on her MA in Art History with an interest in U.S. modern art between World War I and World War II. 

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

In the United States, the Civil War created such a great demand for patriotic propaganda. Printmakers, such as Charles Magnus, produced over a thousand illustrations within the course of the war. This entire Northern Virginia Civil War images collection consists of nearly 200 images on various historical subjects in a variety of formats, including wood engravings, steel engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, maps, and manuscripts from three periodicals: The Illustrated London News, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly. Most of the images depict battles and maps of the Civil War. The maps include the cities of Arlington and Alexandria and the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William. Columbia Pike, Chain Bridge, Long Bridge, the Little River Turnpike, Centreville and Manassas all existed at the time of the Civil War and all of them are represented or referenced in these images.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Magnus’s Civil War illustrations depicted scenes of civil war camps, battles, and portraits of military officials, but he specialized primarily in decorative patriotic stationary such as cards and envelopes. Although pictorial images comprise the majority of the collection, there are also numerous maps, most of which were produced by lithography. A number were produced for military purposes and employed by both the North and South alike. Maps made during the Civil War were often exceedingly accurate; their usefulness carried on into the twentieth century. Magnus’s lithograph series entitled, “Bird’s Eye View of Alexandria, Va”, are illustrated on well-preserved envelopes that are no larger than 3 inches by 5 inches and include a few that are hand colored! In 1798, German inventor, Alois Senefelder, created an innovated and revolutionary printmaking process that is now known as lithography. Lithography allows for artists to produce an unlimited set of images. This enabled Magnus to keep up with the high demands for his patriotic illustrations.

Illustrations like these have been created and used by the public to highlight news events, political satire, coverage of wars, marriages, and even celebrity (like Kings, Queens, Popes, etc.) outings. The practice of creating woodblock prints has been around since at least 220 C.E. with the Han Dynasty. Eventually, through the use of removable type and the invention of the printing press, artists were able to distribute their images over an even larger population.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

 

Reorganizing the GMU Oral History Program Collection

This post was written by Emily Curley, our Oral History Program Coordinator.

The George Mason University Oral History Program has conducted over 200 interviews since 1999. Because we’re always adding to the collection, it’s time to reorganize the physical collection and the finding aid.

Oral History Collection, #R0122, in our closed stacks.

What we’ve done so far:

We’ve reorganized the physical collection. This included moving CD’s of oral history interviews into new boxes and arranging the individual interviews by date, rather than alphabetically. The collection increased from nine to eleven boxes and range from the late 1970’s to 2017. These histories cover a wide variety of topics including the history of George Mason University and Northern Virginia.

Our Next Steps:

  • Comparing the finding aid to the physical collection
  • Revising long abstracts and creating missing abstracts
  • Creating a new finding aid
  • Creating workflow for periodic updates of the Oral History finding aid

We will compare the finding aid to the physical collection and fill in any missing interviews. The finding aid was last updated in 2013, so there are over 50 oral histories that need to be added. After we have confirmed that all of the interviews are updated, we will check the finding aid once again and revise some of the abstracts. Some abstracts have too much information while others have too little. Our aim is to be as consistent as possible.

A box with an oral history pulled out to show what information goes on the labels.

After confirming that the abstracts are correct, I will be working with the Archives and Manuscript Librarian, Liz Beckman, to create a new finding aid, which is expected to go on our website sometime this summer.

Finally, I will create a guide for the next oral historian (who will start in September) so that they can periodically add new interviews and keep the finding aid up to date.

Links

GMU Oral History Program

Youtube

Finding Aid

Other Oral History Holdings

OMEKA Site

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections. Additionally, requests can be made to listen to oral histories in our Reading Room. Copies can also be made for a fee, which are listed on our website. Some oral histories may need to be converted to disk before they are available to patrons. For questions about oral histories, contact Emily Curley. To schedule an appointment or to request copies of an oral history, contact our Research Services Coordinator, Rebecca Bramlett.

Human Rights: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As part of Human Rights week, SCRC is sharing some items from a few of our collections that relate to either the protection of human rights or a neglect for them. The first is a report on the Virginia Council on Human Rights, which was established on August 7, 1987. The goal of the council included protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination. This report is part of the Emilie F. Miller collection which covers a vast array of topics relating to politics within Virginia. She was local activist and supporter of equal rights for women.

"Virginia Council on Human Rights." Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Virginia Council on Human Rights.” Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The second item comes from the French Communist Poster collection. The poster advocates for amnesty for the political prisoners and exiles of Spain. Though it did not gain enough support to win a presidential election, the PCF supported the workers and farmers of France and fought for more social welfare programs, like higher minimum wages, better retirement conditions, better working conditions, and equal pay and also sought female support by celebrating women’s issues and equal rights.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The last item is from the East German Poster political series collection. This poster is undated but references events of 1939. The quote is taken from a Bertolt Brecht poem about the “house-painter” and who made promises of “great times to come.” Brecht went into exile at the onset of the Second World War and is famous for many of his plays.

"Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten",East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten”,East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic Heritage month begins September 15th and continues until October 15th. In 1988 President Reagan formally established this 30-day period, which includes the anniversary of independence for many Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile, to celebrate and draw attention to Hispanic heritage and culture in America.

Chavez, Linda, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation , Booknotes 1992-03-22, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Chavez, Linda, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation , Booknotes 1992-03-22, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

 

 

 

Linda Chavez in, Out of the Barrio, discussed immigration and the progress made by Hispanics in America while analyzing government policies, the importance of assimilation, and attitudes towards immigrants in our country.

 

 

Nichols, Madaline W., Sarmiento: A Chronicle of Inter-American Friendship , F2846_S26_N5_1940, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Nichols, Madaline W., Sarmiento: A Chronicle of Inter-American Friendship , F2846_S26_N5_1940, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

 

 

 

 

 

Sarmiento is about the activist and President of Argentina (1868-1874), Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. This book is significant for telling the story of a man and his travels for which there is little known, written, or translated for an English-speaking audience.

 

 

 

Planned Community Archives, Collection # C001, Box 101, Folder 04, Page , Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

A look at Hispanic communities as part of George Mason University’s local history. Planned Community Archives, Collection # C001, Box 101, Folder 04, Page 22, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. (Click link for Page 23)

 

George Mason University celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in September 1995. Office of University Relations, Collection # R0004, Box 56, Folder 29, Page 3/3, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

George Mason University celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in September 1995. Office of University Relations, Collection # R0004, Box 56, Folder 29, Page 3/3, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

Helpful Information:

GMU Calendar for Hispanic Heritage Month 2016

Hispanic Latino Leadership Association (HLLA)

Hispanic Heritage

PBS Films and TV

GMU Office of University Relations

Planned Community Archives

 

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.