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Collection Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Collection Overview
Name of Creator:The Oral History Center
Title:The Oral History Center records
Reference Code:M73
Location Code:64/2-3; 71/3; 55/1; FF1/D10
Extent:17.15 cubic ft. (24 boxes)
Scope and Content Abstract:The records of the Oral History Center document their efforts between 1978 and 1998 to collect the stories of groups often overlooked by history, including women, children, immigrants, and minorities, in the Cambridge and Boston area. Records include correspondence, reports, plans and proposals, project files, funding information, lesson plans, publicity materials, oral history audio recordings and transcriptions, video recordings, photographs, and slides. Series 1 documents the administrative operations of the Oral History Center. Series 2 contains information concerning the Oral History Center's move to Northeastern University and the relationship between the two organizations. Series 3 contains information about projects in which the Oral History Center acted as either a consultant or in collaboration with another organization. Series 4 deals with workshops that the Oral History Center sponsored, took part in, or attended. Series 5 covers the oral history projects of the Oral History Center and includes transcripts, photographs, slides, and planning documentation. Series 6 contains audio-visual documentation of the Oral History Center's projects, including the oral history interviews for the projects documented in Series 5.
Historical Abstract:In 1978, Cindy Cohen began "From Hearing My Mother Talk," an oral history project involving interviews with 11 women in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the theme of transitions in women's lives. Cohen received funding from the Cambridge Arts Council, which published her work in 1979. This oral history project inspired Cohen to initiate the "Cambridge Women's Oral History Project" in 1980. Its success led to multiple related projects, including "Let Life Be Yours," "Transitions in Women's Lives," and the "Cambridge Women's Quilt Project." In 1981, an advisory committee was created to form the Cambridge Social Resource Center, and in 1983, the Cambridge Oral History Center was incorporated in Massachusetts. The Center's mission was to "collect, preserve, and make accessible material related to the social history of Cambridge groups that have not usually had their experiences documented." In 1987, the Center's name changed to The Oral History Center, citing visible work outside of Cambridge. Other projects involved folk arts of Palestinian and Jewish women in Boston as well as violence among youth in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1994, the Center shifted focus and began to train educators and cultural organizational leaders in collecting oral histories. In 1995, the Center became affiliated with Northeastern University and moved onto its campus. In 1998, the Oral History Center ceased operations.
Language and Scripts:Materials predominantly in English with some interviews and presentations in Spanish, Portuguese, and Hatian Creole.
System of Arrangement:Organized into 6 series: 1. Administrative; 2. Northeastern University; 3. Consultancies; 4. Workshops; 5. Projects and 6. Audiovisual.
Subjects and Contributors:
  • Cohen, Cynthia
  • Metz, Kristen
  • McKenna, Jennifer
  • Pratt, Carrie
  • Thompson, William

  • Cambridge (Mass.) Oral History Center
  • Oral History Center (Boston, Mass.)
  • Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.). Center for Innovation in Urban Education

  • African Americans -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • African Americans -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • African American women -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • African American women -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Aged women -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Azoreans -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Cambridge (Mass.) -- History
  • Folk art -- Massachusetts
  • Folklore -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Haitians -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Hispanic American women -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • History -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Massachusetts
  • Jewish women -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • Oral history
  • Oral history -- Methodology
  • Quilt makers -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Palestinian women -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • Roxbury (Boston, Mass.) -- History
  • Storytelling -- Massachusetts
  • Women -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • Women -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
  • Youth and violence -- Massachusetts -- Boston

Conditions Governing Access:The collection is unrestricted.
Technical Access:Archives staff must make research copies of audio and audio-visual materials prior to use.
Immediate Source of Acquisition:The Oral History Center records are made up of two donations made 22 July 1999 by William Thompson on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Oral History Center for Community Education and Action and 17 August 2006 by Kimberley Sansoucy of the Cambridge Women's Commission.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:Copyright restrictions may apply.
Processor:Finding aid prepared by Stein Helmrich, September 2002. Updated by Anna J. Cook, August 2010.