Oral history project to archive experiences of retired professors

By Ellie Rae Craig

Provost Diane Michelfelder has given the go-ahead for a pilot project that will record Macalester’s history through interviews with retired faculty members starting next month. Oral histories from the recent retirees will eventually be made available in the library’s archives.Library archivist Ellen Holt-Werle and Media Resources specialist Denise Tyburski are looking to conduct hour-long interviews with six to eight professors who are still in the Macalester area in January.

The project has also hired a student who will conduct the actual interviews.

“We think that having a student perform the interviews will give the project a unique face—and we have found a great student who has a lot of experience doing interviews for their classes,” Tyburski said.

Library Director Terri Fishel proposed the original idea to Michelfelder.

“It’s a great chance to hear what the campus was like—you can read official documents, but there’s nothing like hearing about it firsthand,” Holt-Werle said.

Those being interviewed for the project are former tenured faculty who can provide a wide range of insights into the school’s past, Holt-Werle and Tyburski said. If the project’s pilot portion goes well, Tyburski and Holt-Werle said, they would like to eventually interview faculty from all departments.

“We will ask questions like: How did they get to Macalester? What was it like when they came? How did it change during their tenure here? Not only their history but the institutional history,” Holt-Werle said.

The archives staff said that the oral histories from the project should ultimately be available for student research purposes, in both audio and video formats. Complete transcriptions will be stored in the library’s archives. If all goes as planned, the oral histories will also be available on the library’s web site with the interviewees’ permission.

“If it moves beyond the pilot project we would like to interview more faculty members, former board of trustees members, past presidents,” Holt-Werle said. “It seems like there are more students interested in writing about Mac’s history.”