Archived Chat 1

Exploring Our Diversity

This is the archive of our Chat held on February 12, 2001.
Topics: How culturally diverse is Texas? What brings us together? What pulls us apart? What is an oral history? What are some tips we should know?

moderator: Welcome all!
barry: Hi, what do you do, Vicki?
Barry: Hi what is adopt a nursing home?
dhsbob: I'm with DHS Adopt-A-Nursing Home
itcsarah: Hi from the Institute of Texan Cultures edservices Afternoon to our speakers!
edservices: Hi, who's the guest?
itcsarah: Bill, do you have any of your students with you? Did you register?
edservices: So, let's talk a bit about cultural diversity.
edservices: Sarah, what can you tell us about the diversity of Texas? For example, what are the largest of our cultural groups here?
edservices: Bill, what do you teach?
itcsarah: I also have a guest with me today, Homero Vera, the editor of El Mesteno Magazine from Premont, TX in Duval County;
edservices: Can you tell us a bit about that? I'm not familiar with the magazine.
itcsarah: Mexican Americans are clearly the largest cultural group in Texas, but originally it was certainly the Native American.
edservices: What's the best source for finding out all the groups and where they've settled?
itcsarah: It's about the culture and heritage of Mexican Americans in South Texas and Mexico. You can learn more about the magazine by connecting to the website at:
edservices: Wow -- he wouldn't by chance be available tomorrow for the Latino/Mexican chat tomorrow, would he?
edservices: Has anyone here ever done an oral history?
itcsarah: Yes, I have done many and have designed lesson plans for teaching others to do oral history which are posted a website at:
edservices: I was at a conference and watched kids presenting the results of their oral histories. It was great. They practiced how to shake hands, make eye contact, and even had relay races to practice replacing a tape and making sure the recorder was on and microphone toward the person being interviewed.
gretchen: Are oral histories like those books, The Foxfire books?
tpwvicki: Yes, Both Ken and I have conducted oral histories to supplement the research supporting the Exploring Texas Roots Project.
edservices: Thanks, Sarah. We will link to your pages. edservices What did you find most helpful in taking oral histories (question to all)
itcsarah #2: The articles in the Foxfire books were done from oral histories. They interview folks, transcribe the tape, and then they write an article your information in the oral history.
tpwvicki: What we found to be most helpful was the fact that most people truly want to share the information that they have.
edservices: How did you know what to ask? How did you start the conversation?
itcsarah: You really should have a plan or an idea of a topic that you want to address the with interviewee or you will end up with information all over the place and no solid focus to the interview. tpwken Yes Gretchen, it is for Vicki and myself. We set up living history camps in cities for two to three days at times. We have the opportunity to sit down around a campfire and visit with families about their history and hear their stories. edservices Is it hard to find people to interview? Where do you look?
itcsarah: One great place to find interviewees is in nursing homes!
edservices: I agree! I worry that so many wonderful stories are leaving us, with no one to write them down. Sometimes people will talk more to strangers than family. I think the Adopt a Nursing Home program is great.
edservices: Did any of you have any special training before conducting oral histories?
itcsarah: There is an oral history project at Edcouch-Elsa High School down in the Rio Grande Valley (Llano Grande Project) that is doing a fantastic job. They also have a website.
edservices: How about the people in the auditorium? Have you ever asked families, neighbors, about the past?
edservices: Sarah, it would be fun to link to their pages on their website. Mind if we contact them? itcsarah Yeah...I read about 50 oral history transcripts and decided most of them weren't very good and then I begin to make a list of what makes a good oral history and for me...a good oral history has to be focused on some topic and explore it in depth otherwise it is too shallow and all over the a shotgun.
itcsarah: No problem says Homero. The person Francisco Guajardo at the high school.
edservices: How do you know what to focus on? Do you have to know this ahead of time?
tpwvicki: You can also go to our web page on the agency site and check out the Lockhart High School project.
guest3: So you are saying we can be too broad on our topics?
itcsarah: It can be done both ways: if you know you want to learn about roses then you find someone who grows or roses or the owner of a florist shop. Or when you interview a person and a topic emerges that the interviewee clearly knows alot about, then you stick with the topic and keep asking questions to get depth information.
itcsarah #3: I have read oral history transcripts that are 80 pages long and are very broad, but all address topics in depth. But for the most part most oral histories are too superficial and do not provide the reader or researcher with enough information to be useful.
edservices: Vicki and Ken, how did Lockhart do their research? edservices What are some examples of more in-depth questions?
itcsarah: Tell me more about that.... gosh that is interesting what was it like.....what what it like for you then.....use OPEN ENDED questions that have no right/wrong answer and allows the person to keep adding information about the topic.
tpwvicki: The American Cultures class at Lockhart H.S. conducts in-depth research on different portions of our Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Trails. They travel the trail as a field trip and then write up their experiences, comparing the then and now. Their information is then posted on the web site to share with everyone who is interested in the cultural and historical story of Texas.
tpwken: Broad topics are used by our Exploring Texas Roots Program to find areas of minority roots that can connect to our State Parks and other TPW sites. We then focus in on the topics and areas of specific interest.
guest4: Does the oral history have to be in written form, can it be video or tape?
tpwvicki: In our case, it can be in any of the formats mentioned.
edservices: If you wanted to submit one for the Exploring Texas website, we can put any of it online, text, tape or video.
itcsarah: I have seen an oral history of an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair telling about his experience as a prisoner of war during World War II on the Battan Death March. It worked well as an oral history, but there wasn't much of visual appeal to it. So generally 99% of all oral histories are done on cassette tapes.
tpwsteve: I'm getting back in late, but has suggested incorporating these various projects into TPW Outdoor Kids?
tpwchris: When I was about 12 years old, I tape recorded my grandparents account of life in their youth. They both lived on ranches and came from very interesting backgrounds. Having these cassettes are priceless treasures that I plan to share with my daughter someday. Not to mention, it's funny to hear myself sound so young. I will encourage my daughter to tape record my parents for the same reasons.
itcsarah: The US Latinos and World War II Veterans Project at the University of Texas Austin is an oral history project that is being done using video tape.
guest4: Where can I get a list of those open-ended questions, as a novice starting out in this process? edservices We have a tape of my grandmother, who was born in 1882. It's amazing to me, and also, like Chris, a treasure.
edservices: I'm curious, and it doesn't make any difference, but are our guests students or teachers?
Guest #4: there are several excellent genealogy web sites that have oral history question lists that you can print out. Ancestry. com is one and would be good places to start.
itcsarah: In the session plans of the Texas Memories website ( there is a bunch of information and practice sheets for Open/Closed Question Asking.
tpwchris: I think having groups of students visit the local nursing homes and "adopting a grandparent" would be a nice idea. They could collect their history on tape and write a story about the experience. Not to mention, it would mean so much to the elderly person. Perhaps, having the class share all of the oral histories with the elderly people would be a nice way to end the project and make the folks feel that much more special.
itcsarah: Just having kids interview their parents can give some great oral histories.
itcsarah: Bye everyone.
edservices: Thanks, Sarah! moderator Thanks, Sarah, for all your help and contributions
moderator: Thanks so much everyone for participating in our chat today.
guest5: what about the status of native Americans? they have fewer rights than any culture in America - what is being done to preserve their heritage. The US Army resorted to genocide to reduce their tribes and they live on reservations. Why isn't something being done to preserve their heritage and vital history???
tpwchris: Thursday is the Native American History Chat. We may have someone there more qualified to answer your question then. I'm almost certain that something is being done now to preserve their history.
edservices: Time for us to go! Thanks everyone!! and we'll talk more tomorrow!
moderator: So long, folks-
tpwchris: Hasta manana!
tpwvicki: Thanks! Bye for now ...
edservices: To our guests, let me know if you want to visit by phone about how all this went.
tpwken: Until next time

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