Posts Tagged 'oral history'


by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

As a museum, one of our primary goals is preservation. We preserve tangible evidence of our world and our lives through artifacts, specimens, documents and photographs. But we also work to preserve the intangibles that come with our collections: the stories. That’s my favorite part, not just the “what” that identifies an object, but the “why” that tells me why it matters. That’s why I love StoryCorps.

StoryCorps, an independent non-profit, has been working since 2003 to collect the stories that people want to share. In just seven years, StoryCorps has added 30,000 oral history interviews to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The organization is involved in a variety of oral history initiatives, but anyone can share a story. You can hear StoryCorps‘ interviews on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” listen online, subscribe to their podcast, or watch animated shorts of their interviews on the StoryCorps Youtube Channel.

What stories would you want to share?


From the Archive: Rosalie Kelly Remembers – The Railroad

by Pat Walker, Research Assistant, Fort Collins Local History Archive

The Fort Collins Local History Archive has a large collection of oral histories taken in the early 1970s. Rosalie Kelley Remembers is a series of excerpts taken from an interview with Rosalie Kelly, a descendant of North Park pioneer families the Pinkhams and Allards, May 22, 1975.

Rosalie Allard (later Kelly) in 1923

“I want to tell you a little bit about that early railroad because I have some memories there. My father and mother were great hands to take us to Denver and we’d go on the railroad as far as Laramie and then they’d get a sleeper, and that was a lot of fun. But you never knew when you were going to get to Denver, because the railroad might be stuck… the tracks weren’t good and for a long time they didn’t even have a rotary snow plow and we found ourselves one time in Harrison’s Cut, right out on the Laramie plains, two days and two nights, with a whole train load of people. And everybody that went on the railroad always took a great big lunch (laughter), thinking, “Well, we might get stuck,” and we usually were. But this time I remember, it seemed so long and we got so bored… and I looked out the window and here came my dad and another man (they had borrowed from the train crew… snow shoes and gone down–up–up the hill to a little town called Albany) and… each one had a gunny sack over their shoulder, and I know the first thing dad took out of that gunny sack and gave to us was an orange apiece. And that was a real hey day.”

Colorado & Southern passenger train No. 9, snowbound near Como, Colorado. Photographed by Otto Westerman in 1904.

The Move to Fort Collins

by Leigh Westphal, Museum Coordinator, Fort Collins Museum

“The Move to Fort Collins” event began as a component of Beet Street’s Finding Home series, which focuses on immigration in the United States. Because we deal with local history at the Fort Collins Museum, I felt inclined to keep our programming for the series focused on Fort Collins history. So, I came up with the idea of pulling some oral histories out of the Local History Archive that contained immigration as a main theme.

My initial thoughts were to simply have three separate members of our staff read one of the oral histories aloud as a reader’s theater-type event. However, things took a different direction when I presented that idea at a collaborative meeting with the other participants in the Finding Home series. Little did I know at the time of that meeting, I was sitting next to the director of Openstage Theatre, Denise Freestone. Upon hearing my concept, she generously offered to put a call out to actors to do the readings for us.  And so, the process began.

Denise and I teamed up and she played an integral role in finding some superb actors, as well as three very talented playwrights. It was an amazing partnership in that there was such a variety of perspectives at play. As a historian, my most pressing concern was maintaining the historical integrity of the oral histories. As playwrights and actors, they were interested in creating a script that captured an audience, while being as accurate as possible. So, there was quite a bit of discussion along the way that dealt with the difference between a historical piece of non-fiction and a piece of fiction based on historical sources. I think the final product successfully walked a fine line between the two. 

Also, we put together a panel discussion at the end of the event that allowed audience members to ask the authors and actors questions about the process of creating historical plays. It was an amazing dialogue that we were fortunate enough to capture on film, which is soon to be housed in our Local History Archive.

Enjoy this short excerpt, which is read by Sam Salas (as Joe Herrera) and Irene Gordon (as Elvira Herrera), written by Richard Strahle. If you’d like to see more of Sam, he’s currently starring in Openstage Theater’s production of Anon(ymous), which runs through May 2nd.

March 2023

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