Tag Archives: Oral History

Getting their voices heard…

It is hard to truly express how I am feeling about this entire process. While it was only two months ago that our project was born, it has been an adventure from day one. Not only was I able to meet five interesting and captivating classmates, but also a professor with an impressive resume and a passion for our project. As a resident of Port Monmouth my entire life, I felt a strong connection to Super Storm Sandy. While each of us is learning the process of interviewing and the methods of capturing the oral histories, it has been an enlightening and overwhelming process all at once.  Each classmate offers a different perspective and insight into the project.  Working together every step of the way, we have started down the road of capturing the stories of the Bayshore area residents. Utilizing my connections to my hometown, I have worked to set my classmates up with interviewees.  My family, friends and neighbors have the stories and my classmates and I are able to preserve their voice and include them in history. What we are doing is important and we are aware of how hard and trying this process is, but we are committed to creating an archive. We are committed to preserving the stories of how one day forever impacted the lives of these residents.

On the 21st of March 2013, a meeting was held in Port Monmouth entitled “The Port Monmouth Flood Project”.  Hearing of this meeting, I extended the invitation to my professor and my classmates.  While it was meant to be an informational meeting about a great deal of money allocated to the rebuilding process of Port Monmouth, it did run off track at times with questions and comments from understandably upset and emotional residents.  While it was interesting to experience this meeting as a resident of Port Monmouth my entire life, I found seeing the reactions of my classmates and professor to be more intriguing.  This meeting offered an insight into the raw emotion and anger of the residents and the frustrations they are still feeling as a result of Sandy.

With my professor speaking to the meeting coordinator ahead of time, we were given a few minutes to speak in front of the residents about our project.  With my professor introducing our project and handing the microphone off to me, I was given a chance to not only explain the project but also exhibit my passion for such an important process.  I was received well and even given a round of applause by the residents, with the coordinator remarking about how touching it was to see a young lady have so much to say about capturing history.  As a result of our brief presentation (if you will), we were approached by several residents who wished to be included in our project, offering both their stories and their pictures. It is quite hard to capture the emotion I was feeling as these residents approached me and knowing that I had the power to make their voices heard. I intend to include all of these residents, and whoever else wishes to be involved in our project.  While we have merely started down this road, my classmates and I are committed to our project and will work to make our interviewees heard.

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Staring out to Sea: An Origins Story

This semester, as part of a Kean University seminar on advanced oral history methods, we are working to develop a longitudinal oral history project that will document the stories of Superstorm Sandy.

This blog will tell the story of that development process.

We’ve spent the past several weeks discussing the history of oral history and the role that oral history has played in chronicling significant disasters in the United States, and we’ve been studying the Best Practices guidelines from the Oral History Association.  And now we’re beginning to define the scope and parameters of our own project.

At first, we tried to start with a title.

But we quickly realized that until we had a better sense of what the project would look like, all attempts at titles were clunky, cliched, and far too general.

So we took a different approach.  We discussed what themes we wanted to address, what topics we wanted to explore, what communities we wanted to get to know, and people we wanted to interview.

Finally, after an entire class session of making lists, we landed on our project.

And last night, Staring out to Sea: The Story of Superstorm Sandy in Three Bayshore Communities was born.

As the title suggests, the project will focus on three communities right along the Sandy Hook Bay – Union Beach, Keansburg, and Port Monmouth.

The Keansburg Amusement Park was in the path of the storm.
Photo c/o www.timesunion.com

We chose this area for several reasons:

(1) These communities were all significantly impacted by the storm itself.

(2) Though geographically close, these communities are quite socioeconomically diverse, and so they will afford us the opportunity to consider the different variables associated with the issues of power, access, and resources in the storm recovery efforts.

(3) These communities are located directly across the bay from Staten Island, one of the hardest hit areas in New York and a region that’s received significant attention in the local, regional, and national press.  There are already oral history efforts taking place in Staten Island, and our hope is that eventually we can take part in a larger project to document the storm and recovery throughout the Sandy Hook Bay region.

So, follow along as we reflect on our own efforts to collect, process, and present the stories of Superstorm Sandy’s impact on the Bayshore region.

And if you’d like to get involved, leave us a comment!

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