Joel Gardner, oral historian, spoke at Hill Memorial Library on November 30. Discussing the two strands of oral history — the folklore documentary strand, which regards oral histories as “performances”; and the academic approach, which seeks to document historical facts through personal experiences of those who are interviewed – Gardner pointed out that Louisiana had an important role in the early development of both. John and Alan Lomax pioneered the use of oral history to document the lives and performances of Louisiana musicians such as Leadbelly and Jelly Roll Morton. LSU professor T. Harry Williams used oral history in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography of Huey Long, thus legitimizing the use of the technique for academic historians. Gardner noted that the Williams Center has been extremely successful, compiling a remarkable 3,000 hours of oral histories in just 15 years.
After the talk guests toured the exhibition “Have You Heard? The Past in First Person from the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History.”