Thematic units for oral history research

Creating a guide for Montana Heritage Project Affiliates

The Montana Heritage Project will sponsor a colloquium at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula (September 22-24) to plan simple teaching units that link literature and oral history. We will invite writers, historians, teachers and others to a conversation focusing on identifying 3-5 themes that teachers may want to research using oral history. For each theme we will select one or a few literary works that can help orient students to a theme, including but not limited to orientation to a time or place and to essential questions linked to Montana’s history. Sarah Reeves’ A thematic approach to historical fiction is an example of the sort of document we hope to create.

We will discuss whether to focus on expeditions into time periods (1910s, 1930s, 1960s) or on historical topics (immigration, oppression). We will create a set of questions both for students to discuss and for them to ask interview subjects.

Update: Dottie, What I meant was that the project of creating a simple set of guides to using Montana literature to orient students of Affiliate teachers to the topics and questions of their oral history projects might be something that you want to direct. In simpler words, can we get a set of 1 or 2 page summaries of books of Montana literature along with a half dozen or so questions that grow out of the books but that could form the basis of interviews with community members? A possible model is the unit Sarah Reeve did: http://www.edheritage.org/teachlore/sarah.htm She stops with dicussion questions but it would seem a simple thing to extend the questions into those that could be asked of grandparents or community members.

Your idea of meeting to discuss this at MEA rather than the Book Festival seems better than my idea. If we meet at the Book Festival, we may end up with a list of books, but I get a sinking feeling that after that I will need to read the books and write the guides. I could do a few, but it would be better if teachers who were presenting on Montana books at MEA each provided such guides for the books they were talking about.

Are teachers presenting on books of Montana literature? Do you think you could talk them into providing guides we could compile?

My thinking is that affiliates could either use the books and suggested directions for oral interviews, or they could create their own plan, as long as they filed such a guide with us.

My interests right now include We Pointed them North, Fools Crow, the Big Sky, Homesteading, Winter Wheat, and Wind from an Enemy Sky.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 04/28 at 11:17 AM
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2005 Montana Heritage Project