The Lowcountry Oral History Initiative (LOHI) is an online platform for the storage and discovery of oral histories collected in the lowcountry region of South Carolina. Building on the strengths of the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL), LOHI advances public understanding of the history and culture of the South Carolina lowcountry and the interconnected Atlantic World. With support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, LOHI cultivates relationships between the Lowcountry Digital Library and various archival and community organizations to capture and make available audio and video recordings that document the memories of historically marginalized communities. These oral histories will enrich the historical record and enrich our understanding of regional history and culture.
Once collected, these oral histories will be available through an online portal using the Aviary platform. The pilot project is currently beta testing and is available here.
- The project will create a robust and sustainable platform for housing and making discoverable oral history collections from both a wide variety of regional partners and the College of Charleston.
- LOHI hosted oral histories will be collected, catalogued, transcribed, and made available for non-profit educational use, free of charge.
- Community partners will receive training and support to collect oral histories in an ethical and sustainable manner.
- The project will create a community of trained oral historians and give them access to equipment to continue growing the collection after the grant period has ended.
- The project will serve as a catalyst for ongoing community oral history projects and partnerships maintained by LCDL staff with additional contributions from College of Charleston faculty, students, and members of the surrounding communities.
LOHI Phase One (Fall 2023 through Early Spring 2025):
During the project’s grant-funded period, LOHI will conduct an intensive outreach campaign to forge community partnerships and provide professional training and access to sophisticated equipment. The project intends not just to collect high quality oral histories in both audio and video formats, but to build a long-term, sustainable oral history program accessible to project partners using the same cooperative model that makes LCDL successful. These initial outreach activities will focus on documenting historically marginalized and under-represented communities in the lowcountry.
Interviewees will be recorded by either the LOHI Oral Historian or a community ambassador who has undergone training using equipment provided by the College of Charleston. All recordings will be transcribed using Rev.com online transcription service, will be described using MODS metadata schema, and organized by collecting institution on the new LOHI online portal (much the same way that institutional partners are organized on LCDL). All interviews will be conducted with informed consent of all parties and made available through a creative commons BY-NC-ND license. This license requires that attribution be required for use, the use cannot be commercial, and that the work cannot be edited or remixed but must remain true to the original recording.
Oral histories and other audio-visual collections are extremely difficult to manage and maintain. Scholars, genealogists, and other researchers have relied on oral histories since the 1930s. These collections are often disparately housed in research archives across the nation and are (even in 2022) rarely accessible online. Additionally, most of these recordings were collected and described with little agency afforded the interviewee or their communities. We seek to create a platform to allow community partners, scholars, and archives to make available oral histories themselves. This effort will allow regional communities to document their own histories with access to resources provided by the community of scholars at the College of Charleston. The College is uniquely positioned to overcome the technological hurdles to building an oral history program. By building on the successful model first established by LCDL, we can collect, describe, and make available oral history collections in partnership with community groups – allowing them the benefits of the larger cooperative site without requiring that College take ownership of the collections. This kind of tool is vital to document our regional history without engaging in destructive cultural appropriation.
Phase One Project Goals:
- Goal 1: Construct a robust LOHI website.
- Goal 2: Hire a Project Coordinator and Oral Historian who will conduct outreach and identify approximately 3-5 community organizations who are interested in partnering on the project.
- Goal 3: Conduct listening and educational sessions to determine partner’s needs and ensure needs are being met. Develop training materials and portable oral history recording kits that can be shared with community partners.
- Goal 4: Process, transcribe, and make accessible all oral histories conducted during this time period.
Frequently Asked Questions
What benefit would LOHI provide to its community partners?
Partner organizations would receive free training and support to learn how and to formally conduct oral history projects within their community. Partners will also receive training and expert advice on preserving and making accessible these oral histories both via LOHI/LCDL and through their own networks and resources. Basic transcription work for oral histories will be paid for by the College of Charleston. Finally, partnering organizations with a 501c3 status will be eligible for a partnership stiped under this grant.
Who owns the oral histories created as part of this project?
LOHI recommends that copyright be retained by the interviewers and interviewees of the oral history recordings. The partner organization should serve as the holding institution for the recordings and the LOHI and LCDL websites can serve as the platform that makes these recordings accessible to the public. All oral histories shared on the LOHI platform will require permission from the interviewee and interviewer to be shared publicly.
Where will oral histories reside permanently?
LOHI is a new platform maintained as part of LCDL. Partners will maintain intellectual control over the oral histories they record but the digital recordings and transcripts will be made publicly available through the LCDL system. If a partner organization wants to donate the oral history recordings to the College of Charleston, that conversation is always welcome. However, it is not an official requirement or recommendation of the LOHI project.
Who will be able to access and listen to the oral histories on LOHI?
Any oral history recording shared as part of the LOHI project will be widely accessible to the public. Content shared in the LCDL system is also made accessible through the South Carolina Digital Library and the Digital Public Library of America. These platforms are search engine optimized, so recordings will be found using common search engines like Google.
What happens to the project after Phase 1?
While the Community Oral Historian position is only funded through Phase 1, the LOHI project itself will continue with staff support from LCDL and the College of Charleston. It is our hope that Phase 1 of this project will empower partner groups to use the training we’ve provided to continue recording oral histories within their community. LOHI will continue to serve as a free platform for any interested organization or community group who wants to record oral histories and share them broadly and will continue to provide documentation on oral history best practices, transcription, metadata, and digitization. All maintenance costs for LOHI will continue to be funded by the College of Charleston.