- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago nonprofit that collects oral histories of African-Americans has announced that it’s opening its digital archive to universities across the country.

Universities can subscribe to The HistoryMaker’s catalog of video interviews and make it available through their library systems, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1YiTCjD ) reported. Students and faculty who are conducting academic research will be able to access the archive from their campuses.

So far this year, 10 universities have signed up for the service, agreeing to between one- to seven-year subscriptions. Those universities are Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Boston University, Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Howard University, Emory University, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University.

The service will help increase institutional knowledge about black history, as well as incorporate stories and contributions of African-Americans into broader historical narratives, according to librarians and historians.

“We hope that what people learn is how much more inclusive they have to be when they start studying these subjects,” said Sarah Pritchard, dean of libraries at Northwestern. “They have to include a much wider range than they might have previously been aware of, and we have the tools now to do that.”

Julieanna Richardson launched The HistoryMakers from her office in the South Loop in 1999 and started conducting interviews in 2000. The nonprofit’s archive includes 2,700 on-camera interviews featuring people in art, law, politics, sports and other fields.

Universities that subscribe to the service are able to access raw interview footage, biographies and transcripts, which makes it easier for them to scan oral histories for particular topics.

The HistoryMakers staff provides some training to the university subscribers as part of the service.

“We really believe that we’re at a very exciting place for the unlocking of these stories that have not been heard,” Richardson said. “We also believe that we will be the leaders in unlocking other lost American stories.”

The HistoryMakers also is working with Yale, Harvard and Emory to offer one- to two-year fellowships for minority archivists. Richardson hopes dozens of universities will join the effort as she and her staff continue to add to their archive of oral histories.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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