Connect with the Community with the Waxter Center Oral Histories Collection in the Archives!

Photo Credit: Angela Koukoui

As we near the end of October, American Archives Month, we are excited to tell you about the Waxter Center Oral Histories Collection. This collection of oral histories was recently processed and is available for use at the UB Special Collections & Archives! If you explore the transcripts and listen to the interviews available online through the finding aid, you are bound to enjoy rich conversations and learn from local community members as they share their experiences and stories. These interviews provide a unique window into the lives of others as we are able to hear individuals’ stories in their own words and in their own voices. Oral histories and other archival collections help us learn about the past and the present.

Through the recorded interviews and accompanying transcripts, researchers can listen to and read about the experiences and life stories the interviewee shares. The Waxter Center Oral Histories Collection is the result of a collaboration last year between the RLB Library and Joshua Davis and his “History 205: African American History since 1865” class.

During the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read grant awarded to the University of Baltimore last semester, RLB Library and Special Collections & Archives staff and Professor Davis set out to connect students with local community members at the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens in Baltimore, provide a learning opportunity, and conduct oral history interviews with some of the community’s long-time residents.

The NEA Big Read grant supported programming and events focused on the book “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine. Learn more about the NEA Big Read at UB here!

Angela Koukoui of the UB Special Collections & Archives, Sean Hogan of the RLB Library, and Joshua Davis, UB assistant professor, Division of Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies collaborated to create a unique opportunity for students to interview local community members for the project. After planning began a year before, Sean, Joshua, and Angela were excited to work with Natasha Ramberg of the Waxter Center, and schedule the students to conduct the interviews during a “Waxter Wisdom” event and on Valentine’s Day.

Students visited the Waxter Center on February 13 and 14, 2019, prepared with questions and ready to listen, record the interviews, and learn. They discussed the interviewee’s life stories and individual experiences along with themes from their UB history class, and topics from the NEA Big Read book, “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine. Some significant topics featured in the interviews include racism in America and microaggressions. Check out the transcripts and recorded audio from the interviews online in our collections database to learn more!

Students enjoyed connecting with and learning from the community members at the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens in Baltimore. Many Waxter Center patrons have lived in Baltimore or the surrounding region for many years. During the interviews, they discussed their early lives in the region, their experiences growing up, and how issues related to racism effected them.

Photo Credit: Angela Koukoui

The oral history interviews were a great learning experience for students and an exciting opportunity for students and UB staff to connect with the community.

As Angela Koukoui explains: “During our search for NEA Big Read partnerships, we wanted to connect with members nearby our campus. Just a block away, our senior community at the Waxter Center are the heart and soul of Baltimore. Working here at Special Collections and Archives, we strive to honor those who were here before us. The partnership with the Waxter Center was a great success. The amazing stories told left me feeling honored to be a part of the experience.”

“Bringing young, enthusiastic, students to the Waxter Center where they were able to engage and connect with older generations of our city was awesome. Listening to their interviews is a lot of fun. It was really cool to be a part of this program,” said Sean.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project, viewing digital copies of the interview transcripts, or listening to the oral history interviews, check out our finding aid online! Archivists at the UB Special Collections & Archives recently completed the finding aid and attached digital copies of the transcripts and the oral histories to provide access for users anywhere.

If you’re interested in other oral history projects at the UB Special Collections & Archives, you may enjoy the Baltimore Voices Company Records, the Station North Oral History Collection, or others in the archives! Search our database using “oral history” as your key-word to find more oral history collections documenting Baltimore history in our database!

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