Welcome back JFR Blog Readers,
I am excited to share more about my oral history writing project with you! Per my last blog, I briefly summarized my own understanding of the genre and described my newfound familiarity with the required style of writing for the genre. Today, I would like to provide more insight into why I joined the Second Baptist Project, the beginning challenges I faced, and how technology has made the process and the project more accessible to me and my collaborators.
As a daughter of Polish immigrants, I grew up in a small Polish community, which flourished because of the establishment of a Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka. Since 1912, the parish priests and its members sought to keep the Polish culture alive by offering a Mass in Polish every Sunday. Beyond this, my fondest memories of growing up in this community include attending Polish School every Saturday, participating in plays, and singing in the children’s choir. The parishioners also began organizing an annual Polish Fest; last August, we celebrated the 32nd one. While the Church has documented and preserved its history over the years, it is to my understanding that such a large scale oral history project has yet to be conducted. Therefore, when the opportunity to join the Second Baptist Project arose, I thought this was the best opportunity to preserve a culture and a church than through conducting individual interviews of its parishioners.
In my process, one of the challenges I encountered when acquiring the beginning narrative materials was the aspect of data storage. With over 30 audio files that range anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half and transcripts between 12 and 34 pages typed, I learned how crucial storage and organization are in order to keep track of everything. Other historical documents such as newspaper articles, photographs, and books were located and provided by local historical societies, such as the Will County Historical Society, allowing the collection of rich historical documents to be made available to me as I learned about the rich history of the Joliet area and Second Baptist Church’s contribution to the community. Thanks to the advancement of technology, platforms such as Google Docs and Dropbox exist and offer free storage in which documents can be shared with many members simultaneously. The software has only let me down when the wifi is spotty! Otherwise, they have been ideal for storing all of my work including each draft of the narratives thus far.
I do believe these types of oral history projects should continue to be pursued, especially when undergraduate students, such as myself, receive the opportunity to learn more about the writing genre and the professional skills needed to undertake them: collaboration, communication, and time management. I am entirely grateful to the members of Second Baptist Church for trusting me with their stories and to be a part of foregrounding their individual voices in their 140th Anniversary Book. It is truly a significant project–to tell the stories of a vibrant community and to make it accessible to the present and future generations. Through my experience with oral history writing, I have similarly become more appreciative of my family members’ and friends’ stories and their own personal histories. In retrospect on the process so far, seeing the Second Baptist Project constantly evolving, gradually becoming more of a finished compilation of narratives, is truly a magnificent feat. I believe I will continue to take on meaningful oral history projects, such as this one, throughout my writing career.
— Lydia Kozlowski, Blogger
Lydia is a senior at Lewis University majoring in English with a concentration in Language and Literature, and minoring in Professional Writing. She enjoys reading short stories, dabbling with design, and writing consistently in her personal journals. Lydia also enjoys reading memoirs and watching documentaries. Along with being an editor for Jet Fuel Review, she is a Publicity Coordinator for Sigma Tau Delta Rho Lambda Chapter and a tutor and ESL/ELL Specialist at Lewis University’s Writing Center. Outside of her educational endeavors and commitments, Lydia stays active by running on nature trails and rollerblading around campus.