UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) alumna Jaycie Vos (MSLS ’13) and current master’s student Maria Ramirez presented their work with New Roots/Nuevas Raíces: Voices from Carolina del Norte at the Oral History Association Annual Meeting on October 14, 2016, in Long Beach, Calif. At the meeting, Vos, Ramirez, and New Roots Director Hannah Gill accepted the OHA’s 2016 Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award, which recognizes outstanding oral history projects.
New Roots is a research initiative of UNC Chapel Hill that documents the migration, settlement, and integration of Latino communities in North Carolina through oral history. Founded in 2007, the project has generated over 160 interviews, with around 40 new interviews conducted annually by bilingual staff and students. The interviews address various themes, such as migrant experience, adult education, youth activism, language, and communication.
Vos became involved with the project through her work with the Southern Oral History Program. As Coordinator of Collections, she manages much of the SOHP’s collecting and curating, and oversees the archival processing for materials. Ramirez was hired as the project’s Bilingual Documentation Archivist. As New Roots students and staff conduct interviews, Vos and Ramirez add them to the SOHP collection.
“We have added new fields to the existing SOHP metadata schema to capture information important to these particular oral histories – including geographic metadata and interview themes – and we developed a themes dictionary to better help our users understand the content of the interviews,” Vos said. “Maria has done a significant amount of translation work to describe each interview in both English and Spanish, and we’ve added metadata fields in Spanish to make the interviews more accessible.”
Vos and Ramirez have also provided outreach services, including speaking at various events about the project, and have an article forthcoming in Southern Cultures (Winter 2016 issue, UNC Press).
Ramirez, who received a Mellon Conference Travel Award from the Institute for the Study of the Americas to attend the OHA meeting, said working on the New Voices project, and with its talented cross-disciplinary team, has been rewarding both personally and professionally.
“As someone who arrived in this country from Venezuela at nine years old, the stories collected and disseminated through this digital archive have allowed me to reflect on my own migratory experience and to feel connected to others who now call North Carolina home,” she said. “On a professional level this project gave me hands-on experience with tools like Omeka and CONTENTdm, and it has allowed me to apply my language skills to translate metadata and make the collection accessible to a multilingual audience.”
Set to graduate in December, Ramirez’s thesis focuses on how oral history collections from several countries present their materials to users over the web. She believes oral histories can be particularly difficult for archives to integrate into their collections, and she hopes to continue confronting the issues of wider access as she launches her career as an archivist.
“New Roots provides a good model of how archives can contextualize and describe their digital materials for a diverse, global audience,” she said. “Overall it has been enlightening to be part of a project that confronts so many of the challenges to the access of oral histories, particularly a project that aims to bridge linguistic divides.”