Earlier this month, I presented a poster on an oral history project conducted by myself and Dr. Alice Lynn McMichael (LEADR, Director) at the Midwest Archaeological Conference.
The primary goal of this project was to span best practices in oral history research and archaeology, while promoting the public outreach mission of both the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) and Michigan State University (MSU). This was accomplished through audio interviews with Dr. Lynne Goldstein, followed by the creation of an accessible, public facing web presence to share the oral history and media documentation of twelve years of CAP.
This project serves as a case study for similar programs as oral history may serve as both valuable “grey literature” in recording unpublished archaeological data, as well as outreach to wider publics.
Field notes, white papers, and informal data recordings are all important aspects of archaeological projects that don’t necessarily carry the same “weight” as publications; yet, they offer insight into the social and historical contexts of the archaeologists themselves. Blogs are one type of public-facing work that incorporates the of-the-moment and personal perspectives of archaeologists into the disseminated record of a dig or project.
Through this project and poster presentation, we (Alice Lynn and myself) argue that oral histories are another genre of publication that should augment traditional publications in recording the historiography of archaeological projects, teams, and sites.
A major aspect of our project was making sure that the web presence was as accessible as possible. This project received a DH@MSU Seed Grant to produce text transcriptions for better accessibility. In addition, each web image has alt-text, which is a brief description that screen readers can convey. We also created a link to a text-only version of the interactive timeline on the website, so that people who cannot see the media are able to receive the content in chronological order. Finally, all of the hyperlinks were created as descriptive phrases, rather than generic “click here” to ensure that each one is unique.
The actions we took to make the project website can and should be applied whenever possible to all digital projects.
If you are interested in viewing the website, please visit oralhistory.campusarch.msu.edu.