This is Part 2 of a multi part series on oral histories at the Medical Center Archives. Part 1 “Oral Histories at the Medical Center Archives” outlines what an oral history is and the types of oral histories held at the Medical Center Archives.
An oral history is an interview that records an individual’s personal recollections of the past and historical events. The Women in Duke Health oral history project began in the fall of 2006, when Jessica Roseberry, who at the time was the Oral History Program Coordinator at the Medical Center Archives, was approached by Dr. Ann Brown, Associate Vice Dean for Faculty Development; Director, Duke Academic Program in Women's Health, as part of the Faculty Women’s Committee. The committee wanted to create an exhibit in the hospital celebrating the contributions of women in medicine at Duke and in their inquiries learned of Roseberry and asked her to help them discover and interview women who played a significant role at Duke Medicine (now Duke Health).
As the project evolved, Dr. Brown’s office received a grant from the Josiah Trent Foundation to aid Roseberry, the oral historian, in transcribing future interviews about women. The end goal of this project was to create more than the original exhibit, as it grew to include an online repository showcasing women in the medical center who made a significant impact on Duke Medicine. The collected interviews also grew to include interviews done with women before the project officially began, as it used interviews conducted through a previous grant from the Trent Foundation, as well as interviews done in the course of regular interviewing. Additionally, the project also included women who were deceased; the oral historian interviewed relatives and/or coworkers about the selected women or used archival and other materials to uncover the woman’s “story.”
This project is still ongoing, and the oral histories are housed at the Medical Center Archives. Recently, the online exhibit was refreshed and can be found here: the Women in Duke Health exhibit. These oral histories and subsequent exhibit offer a unique historical perspective from the interviewees’ lived experiences. The collected oral histories give space to these women who were pioneers and firsts in their disciplines to tell their own stories in their own words.
This blog was contributed by Archives Technical Services Head Lucy Waldrop.