For my review, I came across the website entitled Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project (http://www.tellingstories.org/). The website contains interviews performed by students at the Urban School of San Francisco with elders who witnessed key events during the 20th century. The topics covered are various and include the stories of Holocaust survivors, concentration camp liberators/ witnesses, Japanese American camp internees, etc.
Looking at the various interviews, the website is designed for users to “read, watch, and listen” each first hand account, thus improving the accessibility and impact of each story. As each interview is available in full text and audio/visual, the user can alternate how they approach each subject through these various features. One can either read and/or hear each account, as text for each interview is linked to an associated recording. This acts as quite a nifty feature for cross-referencing or actually hearing the first hand account and the possible emotions attached to it, in a sense adding a more human element for the user approaching these interviews.
Clicking on any of the main topic links, viewers find themselves with various links of those interviewed and grouped by similar subject matters. A short bio is presented under each individual, and choosing one by clicking on their associated link leads to their “read, watch and listen” page, where each one of their stories unfolds into further information. For the more active accounts, chapters are provided and navigable to particular points of an interviewee’s story, allowing the user to jump to certain information they deem relevant or not and increasing the websites overall accessibility.
In order to try and quicken any research or time with the material, a “quick navigation” tab is provided in the lower right hand corner for each account in order to easily surf between topics and interviews. This feature is helpful because after clicking on some of the texts links and/ or watching the associated videos, going back to previous pages and/or original menus increases in time as each is reloaded in process and there is no real menu bar or something to bypass this all. Working on these links to the main menu and other subjects/ interviews so as to be in more plain in sight can make this website stronger.
As a final note about the design, the attempted “glossary items” tab is an interesting addition that can have useful applications once fully developed. This features is intended to provide short definitions of key historical and geographic terms by moving one’s cursor over an underlined word, but is still in its developing stages and needs more work; once complete though, it appears as though it’ll heighten the users experience by clarifying any terms or points mentioned in the interview.
Overall though, the approach taken through this website is innovative for its effective use of oral history, documenting the personal stories of eyewitnesses and then making these interviews available online for anyone’s use interested in this information. These accounts can contribute to the understanding of a particular subject within a given context and substantiate certain arguments if need be. As a whole, this website contributes to the understanding of how oral accounts can increase historical meaning and understanding of a certain subject by providing first hand accounts that move past certain biased narratives in history and better show the impact of discrimination by those who actually lived it. The opportunities to extend this research into other significant topics in history with further interviews is there and hopefully will continue to expand in the future. At present it appears that students are continuing to work on this project and learning a combination of skills involving historical research, listening, and interviewing as well as digital camera, editing and web-page publishing techniques, which others can learn too if more schools became open to this way of learning and project type.