Echoes from the Archive: How Oral History, Radio, and the Archive Intersect
Dr. Natalie Dykstra
Stories are how we understand the world around us. Every day we read stories in newspapers or magazines, watch them on television, or listen to them on the radio. We tell stories amongst ourselves over dinner or coffee or the phone. We are constantly sharing bits and pieces of our lives with those around us. It is easy for these stories to be lost forever, especially with the twenty-four hour news cycle. Moreover, there seems to be little focus on the stories of the past as we jump from one subject to the next without pausing to let each story sink in. Some stories remain untold and forgotten, buried within archives. But the past can provide us with an understanding of the present: what’s past is prologue. What if we were to bring new life to these forgotten stories of the archive through new digital media? Can we see the lives of ordinary people in a different and revelatory way? Can they help us understand the past or present better? In this project, I study how stories shape how we view ourselves and our past. Inspired by NPR’s “This American Life,” I explore the theme of escape with linked stories of a Laotian immigrant, a former slave, and a young fugitive, which help me to understand how stories can intersect in new and interesting ways. My analysis applies theories of oral history and radio broadcasting to archival materials in order to further comprehend what it means to tell a story and to trace out the impact stories have on our culture.
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