FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 30, 2004) – The stories of Kentuckians, told in their own words, are valuable pieces of history. That’s why the Kentucky Oral History Commission has been reaching across the state to record and preserve the diverse stories of Kentuckians since 1976. This nationally recognized, award-winning program of the Kentucky Historical Society has collected more than 25,000 interviews -- from tenant farmers and lay midwives to political leaders and nationally acclaimed authors.
“The Commission exists to provide a comprehensive approach to history,” says director Kim Lady Smith, who also observed that, “Oral history interviews significantly enhance our understanding of the past.”
The commission‘s grant program provides financial and technical assistance to academic and community oral historians, who are responsible for the collection of the majority of interviews. Commission staff also provide workshops and state conferences for Kentuckians who want to learn to collect oral history.
To date, the Kentucky Oral History Commission has:
· Awarded more than 400 grants to individuals, colleges, universities, and community organizations, resulting in the collection of more than 25,000 interviews located at repositories throughout the state.
· Established a collection of nearly 8,000 interviews, one of the largest in the United States, at the Kentucky Historical Society.
· Conducted more than 180 workshops.
· Completed a statewide survey and published a guide to oral history collections in 1991 that identified 214 collections at 49 repositories and included a name index to nearly 14,000 interviews. The statewide guide database was updated in 2003 and is now available on the Kentucky Historical Society Web site.
· Initiated a statewide project on the family farm in Kentucky that collected more than 500 interviews.
· Conducted a multiyear project to document the civil rights movement in Kentucky and to produce educational programs based on the oral history collection. More than 200 interviews have been collected and transcribed. Eight radio programs have been produced and two performance pieces. The documentary, Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky was produced for the commission by Video Editing Services in Lexington in 2002 and has been broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television six times. Two symposia, “Voices of Protest: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky” (2000) and “Unfinished Business: School Desegregation in Kentucky” (2004) have been sponsored by the Oral History Commission and the Kentucky Historical Society.
An agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, The Kentucky Historical Society, since 1836, has provided connections to the past, perspective on the present and inspiration for the future. KHS operates the Old State Capitol, Kentucky Military History Museum and its five-year-old headquarters, the Kentucky History Center. Since 1999, the thirty-million-dollar History Center has welcomed almost one million visitors. For more information about the Kentucky Historical Society and its programs, visit the Web at http://history.ky.gov or call (502) 564-1792.