Oral history is built around people – Franco-American Collection hosts a January 11 seminar

An invitation to the public to learn more: “Family heritage is a gift no one else can give,” Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc.

In preparation for the state’s bicentennial Maine Celebration 2020, the Franco-American Collection (FAC) at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College (USM LAC) is in the process of collecting oral histories to prepare for a March exhibit. The purpose of the exhibit is to showcase four of Lewiston’s Franco-American entrepreneurial families.

Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc.

Molly Graham will lead the workshop for the community at USM LAC for the Franco-American Collection, on Saturday, January 11, from 9:30 AM-!;30 PM.

During the planning, an opportunity became available to share with the community some best practices about how to obtain excellent oral histories. Two FAC board members attended a workshop with Molly Graham, who spoke in June, 2019, at a Biddeford Franco-American seminar. Board members Andrea Quaid and Celia McGuckian subsequently advised the FAC Board about the presentation and invited Graham to present a workshop for the USM LAC community. This program will be held on Saturday, January 11, from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM, at USM LAC, on Westminster Street, in Lewiston. To make this program available, a modest $15 registration fee is requested for members of the Franco-American Collection and $25 for those who are non-members.  Membership subscriptions will be available at registration, for those who would like to take advantage of the discounted tuition.

Oral history is the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events. The January 11, program will be excellent for family members who want to record their relatives’ histories and preserve their stories for future generations.

Learn best practices

Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc. supports education about how to collect history through family’s stories.  Molly Graham will lead the January 11, workshop at USM LAC for the Franco-American Collection. The public is invited to participate.

Learning about oral history best practices will help family historians and genealogy researchers to capture the best of their families’ stories. Molly Graham’s workshop will include a comprehensive introduction to oral history, project design, research and preparation, interviewing, and recording techniques and more. An opportunity for group discussions and hands-on activities will follow the presentation.

In addition to her experience as an oral historian, Molly Graham is also a radio producer and archivist with field experience in Massachusetts and Maine. She served as Oral Historian for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Molly holds an M.A. in Library Science and is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.  (Since 1973, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies at the Maine College of Art has taught students from all over the United States and around the world to become skilled documentarians and storytellers.)

She is the co-founder with Keith Ludden of the Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc., dedicated to preserving the stories, recollections and voices of Maine people, events and movements.. Oral history is an effective means for exploring the forces that change our communities. Oral histories like those collected by the Franco-American Collection in cooperation with the Lewiston-Auburn communities, will help to increase awareness about the collective identities of the people who lived the histories that they describe in their interviews.

The FAC exhibit to celebrate Maine’s bicentennial is proposed to open in early March 2020, at LAC.  Doris Bonneau, a board member, along with Mary Rice-DeFosse a professor at Bates College, and Celia McGuckian, have interviewed members of the Lepage, Bonneau, Leblanc, and F.X. Marcotte families and will include parts of their oral histories in the exhibit.

Oral history is an effective way of defining how a community has experienced change and overcome socio-economic challenges. The stories give context and meaning to the past. It is the gathering and interpretation of the human experience that exists in every community. Few things are more valuable. As defined by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, it is, “…a sound recording of historical information obtained through an interview that preserves a person’s life history or eyewitness account of a past experience.”

Moreover, the University of Southern Maine, reported in the December 2019, alumni news about student veterans who recorded their oral histories at the invitation of the Veterans History Project, a Library of Congress initiative. Students Stephen White, Mary Swanson and Omar Andrews were once active military and now USM students who proudly preserved their stories on a public archive for future generations to experience, through their own words.  In the article, the report quotes the Library of Congress as a place where all veteran stories are believed to be special. Since 2000, the Veterans History Project within the library’s American Folklife Center has been collecting and preserving first-hand interviews and narratives from veterans. The stories — in interviews, memoirs, maps, photographs, letters and diaries — live on in a public Internet archive.

In fact, my husband Richard L’Heureux, retired from the US Navy and a Vietnam War veteran, and his brother William Paul L’Heureux, a World War II veteran and past crew member of the USS Panamint, were interviewed by Rice-Defosse, who is collecting oral histories from Franco-American veterans.  Williams L’Heureux, 94, related his World War II experience by speaking in French. Both of the veterans’ histories are now on video along with several others that were collected, some recorded with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Contact the Franco-American Collection at USM LAC for more information about the January 11, workshop with Molly Graham.  Light morning refreshments will be served. Call 207-753-6546 and speak with Anna Faherty, the FAC archivist or email her at anna.faherty@maine.edu.


Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.