What makes oral history so compelling?

Sarah Milligan at FSU

To find out, Marina Ortiz, doctoral candidate in History, went to a lecture by Sarah Milligan, head of the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program. Organized by FSU’s Art History Department, Milligan spoke on oral history and community engagement last Friday.

Sarah Milligan, currently at Oklahoma State University, demonstrated the complexities of oral history in practice by drawing on the Chilocco History Project. Oral historians and Native American groups with ties to the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School collaborated closely to share authority for the making of their history. In narrating the Chilocco Project, Milligan explained the importance of assessing the motivations of participants, in order to balance experiential retellings of events with the need for being scholarly. Sarah Milligan emphasized that honesty, transparency, and intentionality were at the heart of oral history.

Sarah Milligan underlined that oral history was a powerful methodology because it was “so personal in a way text can’t recreate.” Milligan said she came to the field of oral history by asking herself: “What are the pieces that bridge us together?” By following the core principles of the practice and engaging the community, oral history answers this question.

For resources about oral history, visit: www.oralhistory.org