Thursday, May 11, 2006

University Libraries Receive LSTA Grant to Create Digital Oral Histories

The oral histories and stories of people from Muncie’s diverse citizenry will be kept alive through a digitization project, thanks to a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) to the University Libraries. John Straw and Dr. Arthur W. Hafner are Co-Principal Investigators for the project.

The $25,125 in grant funding will be used to digitize oral history interviews, purchase equipment, pay for personnel costs, and other expenses associated with the creation of a digital collection of oral histories from the Archives and Special Collections Research Center.

The oral history interviews include three African-American, three Catholic, and two Jewish collections documenting the citizenry of Muncie, Indiana. The project provides for collaboration between the Ball State University Libraries, the Center for Middletown Studies, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Lawrence Catholic Church, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

The finished product will also serve as an initial part of a Web-based teaching tool to be developed by the Center for Middletown Studies in collaboration with Archives and Special Collections within the next two years. Audio files and transcriptions will be made available in the Digital Media Repository.

In addition to the existing African-American and Jewish oral history collections currently preserved in the Archives, creation of a new collection of interviews with members of the Catholic congregations will be funded through the grant.

Trained volunteers from each of the churches will conduct the interviews. Three emeriti faculty from Ball State who attend the respective churches will coordinate the volunteers and the interviewing process. Dr. Michael William Doyle, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Public History Internship Program at Ball State, will conduct a workshop on Oral History Methods to train the volunteers. The completed interviews will be placed in Archives and Special Collections.

Oral histories are valuable teaching, learning, and research tools for students and faculty that give an added dimension to the historical record. These “personal narratives” illuminate the lives of Indiana citizens and provide unique research material on populations that were neglected in the seminal studies published by sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s using Muncie as “Middletown,” a representative American community. The LSTA grant provides the University Libraries the opportunity to make these resources available to be heard and read by the students and faculty of Ball State and by individuals throughout the world.

This is the second year in a row that the University Libraries has received an LSTA grant for digitization. The 2005-06 LSTA grant was used to create the Digital Repository of U.S. Civil War Resources for East Central Indiana. Those resources are now available in the Digital Media Repository at http://libx.bsu.edu
The federal Library Services and Technology Act, administered in Indiana by the Indiana State Library, exists to assist states in the extension of and improvement of library services.