Tag Archive for: oral histories

Young Historians, Living Histories


Asian American LEAD students participate in the Asian Pacific American Center's (APAC) summer outreach program. Photo Credit: Sandra Vuong, APAC.

Asian American LEAD students participate in the Asian Pacific American Center’s (APAC) summer outreach program. Photo Credit: Sandra Vuong, APAC.


Young Historians, Living Histories is a collaborative educational program that draws on the exhibition, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story, from the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center (APAC).

Smithsonian Affiliations and APAC have partnered in a grant collaboration and have been awarded funds from the Smithsonian Office of the Assistant Secretary for Education and Access’s Youth Access Grant program to work with nine Affiliates across the country that are positioned to engage underserved youth in select Asian Pacific American communities.

The one year multi-media educational program will provide qualifying partners with one week of professional development training. The training will prepare facilitators to implement a workshop (or series of workshops) that teaches underserved Asian Pacific American (APA) youth methods of oral history documentation, research and writing skills, along with video documentary and editing skills. The goal of the program is to encourage budding historians to explore, contextualize, and deepen their understanding of APA history and culture while learning new technologies and contributing to a dialogue in their local communities. Workshop participants will gain the skills to produce multimedia online banners to be shared across a network of websites (including the Smithsonian) around the project.

Asian American LEAD students participate in the Asian Pacific American Center's (APAC) summer outreach program. Photo Credit: Sandra Vuong, APAC.

Asian American LEAD students participate in the Asian Pacific American Center’s (APAC) summer outreach program. Photo Credit: Sandra Vuong, APAC.

Selected Affiliates will be awarded $2,500 for implementation of Young Historians, Living Histories Program.

If your organization is interested in participating in this initiative, please review the following criteria for selection:
– Serve an Asian Pacific American community
– Experience in conducting and documenting oral histories
– Maintain or have the potential to develop partnerships with local community centers, after school programs and/or middle and high schools to engage youth in the multimedia project
– Capacity to organize workshops (May – November 2013) and train participants in the production of online banners

For more information on the program, join us for a Teleconference to discuss implementing the Young Historians, Living Histories program.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

Dial In: 1-877-860-3058                               Participant Pass code: 607773

Talk to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s (SAPAC) Gina Inocencio, the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) and Smithsonian Affiliations representatives Christina DiMeglio Lopez and Caroline Mah.

Storytelling Thrives at Smithsonian Affiliate

Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee

Has anyone proclaimed October “National Storytelling Month?”  I’m sure this would find great favor among the more than 10,000 people who attended this year’s 38th annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  Organized by Smithsonian Affiliate, the International Storytelling Center, the festival gives ample evidence that the spoken word has not yet succumbed to the abbreviated argot of tweets, instant messaging, acronyms, and emoticons.  In Jonesborough, the world’s oldest art form is flourishing. 

Begun in 1973 by Jimmy Neil Smith, a former journalism teacher and mayor of this picturesque, historic East Tennessee town, the festival has justifiably earned Jonesborough the title of “Storytelling Capital of the World.”  As Smith recalls, “thirty eight years ago, when 50 or so people gathered around a hay wagon in the center of my home town to tell and listen to stories, something magical happened.  The National Storytelling Festival was created, basically, to inspire ordinary people to share stories.” 

Niall de Búrca, of Ireland, performs during the 2009 National Storytelling Festival. Photo courtesy Fresh Air Photo.

Inspire it does.  The storytelling usually begins at 10:00 am and lasts well past midnight.  Veteran attendees meticulously scope out the schedule and find their seats long before starting time.  Audiences remain attentive and appreciative throughout, absorbed in each session, hanging on every word, eagerly awaiting the ever-unpredictable plot twist or punch line.  Stories range from traditional to personal and from serious to surreal.  In all their shapes and styles, the stories embrace the glorious diversity of the oral tradition, while underscoring what must be a universal human impulse to create narrative out of everyday life. 

Chuna McIntyre presents a Yup’ik Eskimo story at the 2009 Festival. Photo courtesy Fresh Air Photo.

Many Jonesborough storytellers have shared their skills on Smithsonian stages. Ray Hicks, Donald Davis, Jay O’Callahan, John McCutcheon, Bill Lepp, Syd Lieberman, and Kathryn Windham, to name a few have performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Discovery Theater, and at various SI museums and workshops.  Smithsonian staff have, in a similar manner, given their time and talents back to Jonesborough:  Rex Ellis, master storyteller and Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, has been a mainstay in Jonesborough since 1990;  Stephanie Norby, Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies and Clare Cuddy, National Museum of the American Indian have also advised on educational strategies and programming at the International Storytelling Center. 

(L to R) Affiliations Director, Harold Closter, and Storytelling Center President, Jimmy Neil Smith

The work of all these accomplished folk demonstrates the truth behind poet Muriel Rukeyser’s observation that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”  One trip to Jonesborough and you’ll have no doubts.  Just remember to make your reservations early!