The Memory Keeper: Analyzing the Importance of Collecting and Preserving Oral Histories in a Twenty-First Century University Archival Repository
Date of Completion
Open Access Capstone
Master of Arts (MA)
Spencer M. Di Scala
Recognizing the importance of collecting and incorporating individuals’ memories into an institution’s archival repository is a fundamental task that archivists must professionally and ethically accept. Depending on the repository’s specific needs and mission goals the collection policies will differ; however, disregarding the personal stories of the working population of the university is a disservice to archival collecting. How can a user analyze the completed history of an academic institution without providing the documented input and sharing of personal experiences of faculty, staff, and students? How can a researcher evaluate theory and explore a multitude of viewpoints, if only printed media is available as research tools?
How then, does a university archivist preserve the cultural memory—or “the spiritual and familial practices,” and oral traditions of an academic institution? How are oral histories represented in the historical narrative of a college or university? Unfortunately, more often than not, the oral histories of a university community remain largely uncollected and underrepresented. Collections that do have interview transcripts or recordings of individuals are more likely to document those who are in a position of authority in the university community than those who are responsible for its daily operations.
Currently the University of Massachusetts Boston’s University Archives and Special Collections holds only two oral history collections regarding individual employee experiences and personal remembrances. For a University that is approaching its fiftieth year as an academic institution, why are only a handful of such stories and personal journeys preserved? Obviously, an archivist is not physically able to collect the personal stories of every individual who has been a part of the UMass Boston community, but as a keeper of memory, how does an archival institution decide what is, and is not, worth collecting and preserving?
Balasko, Arabeth, "The Memory Keeper: Analyzing the Importance of Collecting and Preserving Oral Histories in a Twenty-First Century University Archival Repository" (2013). History/Archives Capstones Collection. 1.