The University of La Verne’s oral history project contains 350 interviews and counting, filled with the rich stories of individuals and their experiences at the University.
Professor of Humanities Al Clark revealed his progress on La Verne’s oral history project in his faculty lecture, “Oral Histories of the University of La Verne,” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
“This project could impact the future of the University because of the fact that we have now done something that no other university has done,” Clark said. “We have created an oral history project that has already resulted in more interviews of people that are related to this institution of higher education than any other institution in the country.”
Clark explained that oral history is a form of public history, due to the fact that it is history outside of academia.
He used the “anti-history” avenue of oral history for this project, allowing people to tell their stories through recorded interviews.
This is a direct contrast to the “more-history” avenue, or the traditional way historians collect documents and photos that pertain to their stories.
“With oral history, we have the opportunity to escape trained historians like myself who basically tell the story, and allow you to tell your story,” Clark said. “This way the history comes from the people who actually made it.”
Clark began the oral history project with his first interview in January 2014.
Since then, he has set up meetings with various individuals ranging from alumni to administration, each with their unique stories to tell about their time at the University.
“I think the project definitely captures the voices of the students and staff rather than just focusing on professors and administrators, giving everyone within the University their opinion and personal view,” sophomore child development and creative writing double major Alyssa Godina said.
Clark invited a few of his interviewees to his lecture, one of whom has strong family connections with La Verne.
Virginia Davis-Stark, class of 1951, comes from a long line of relatives who have attended the University.
Her brother, Rodney Davis, was a psychology professor who helped start the CAPA program at ULV. He also married Dorothy Brandt, Jesse Brandt’s daughter, for whom Brandt Hall was named.
“I am glad to share my story, as I hope many of the current students will have good memories and strong ties to ULV in the future,” Davis-Stark said.
With the help of ULV archivist Benjamin Jenkins, Clark was able to make the oral history project more accessible to the public through the Wilson’s Library archives and YouTube channel.
“The recorded videos are a good way for history to keep up with modern technology, and it helps because it creates an easier access to the history of La Verne,” Tianna Cano, sophomore computer science major, said.
Clark has also written “Oral History as Institutional Biography,” a paper which he recently submitted to “The Public Historian,” a University of California, Santa Barbara publication.
In it, he talked about the importance of anti-history and used the results of ULV’s oral history project to show the benefits of having the stories told by individuals.
“I think Clark is doing critical work to understanding our university, heritage and culture,” Jenkins said. “There are so many colleges in Southern California, but none of them have done this kind of thing to understand their communities. La Verne is unique because it understands its heritage and community more through this oral history project.”
Mulan Novilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.