America I AM: The African American Imprint is currently on view at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. I heard about it on NY1 yesterday where they quoted the exhibition’s press release:
An interactive component of the exhibition will allow visitors to leave their own video “imprints,” and this collection will grow throughout the life of the exhibit to become the largest recorded oral history project in U.S. history.
And that got me thinking about the meaning of oral history.
Recording the impressions of museum visitors certainly creates an excellent video document that future scholars may find useful – but is it Oral History? Do we need more information about the narrators, greater context within which to understand their lives and their stories, in order to constitute an Oral History? Where does a project like StoryCorps fit in? Maybe we need a broader term for these multimedia primary-source documents we’re preserving?