Talking history

In conjunction with the opening of the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections exhibition, “Have You Heard? The Past in First Person from the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History,”oral historian Joel Gardner will speak on Friday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. in Hill Memorial Library’s lecture hall. A reception will follow the talk. The exhibition and talk are free and open to the public.

Gardner has directed several oral history projects and programs in Louisiana, served as copy editor of Louisiana Folklife A Guide to the State, and was actively involved in the founding of the Williams Center. He is the author of Oral History for Louisiana (1981), Looking Back: A Guide to Genealogical Research in Louisiana (1983), and Built in Louisiana: A Social History of Louisiana Carpenters (1985). He has interviewed dozens of people in all walks of life on topics ranging from television production to sports to publishing. In 1987, he founded Gardner Associates to conduct oral history research for corporations and institutions in the Delaware Valley.

An outspoken advocate of oral history, Gardner will speak on its importance as a tool to preserve and document culture and history, especially in Louisiana, with its strong tradition of story telling and folklore. He will discuss the work of pioneering oral historians, such as John and Alan Lomax (interviewer of legendary folk musicians, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, and Jelly Roll Morton), as well as T. Harry Williams, who used oral history in his Pulitzer-Prize winning biography of Huey Long.

The exhibition “Have You Heard” showcases a diverse selection of oral history interviews collected by the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, covering topics such as LSU history, World War II, the Houma Indians, Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina, the Flood of 1927, folklife in the Atchafalaya and Louisiana politics.

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