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2017 Summer Institute

The Columbia University Center for Oral History Research, in partnership with the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, is proud to announce the program for the 2017 Summer Institute: Oral History and Aging: Transmitting Life Stories of Being and Becoming Across Cultures and Generations, which will bring together aging experts, renowned oral historians, activists and practitioners from June 5-16, 2017.

This advanced training will include both theory and practice to explore the many ways our society addresses life review as a part of the aging process as well as trans-generational memory. Participants will learn to use oral history and intergenerational dialogue as both a tool and an analytical lens while considering the opportunities and challenges of aging, vulnerability and resilience through telling and hearing stories.  Additionally, we will hold workshops, panels and and a public interview on subjects of general interest.

The Institute will begin with a presentation on the transmission of memory and meaning through the Shoah Foundation Oral History Project, led by Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner and Anita Hecht, moderated by Mary Marshall Clark. It will also include a keynote lecture by Ursula Staudinger, Director of the Columbia Aging Center, entitled: “More Years, More Life: Opportunities and Challenges of Demographic Change."

The application for admissions and fellowship is closed.

Priority deadline: February 28, 2017
Application deadline: April 1, 2017

Core faculty includes:  Peter Bearman, Doug Boyd,  Mary Marshall Clark, Ronald J. Grele, Alessandro Portelli, Linda Shopes, Amy Starecheski, and Cameron Vanderscoff. 

For inquiries contact Mary Marshall Clark ( and Cameron Vanderscoff ( 

Highlights of the Institute include:

Oral History and Digital Technologies: Recording, Curating, Disseminating
Doug Boyd, Director, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

Memories and Conversations between Parents and Children About the Anti-G8 Demonstrations in Genoa
Alessandro Portelli, professor emeritus of Anglo-American literature at the University of Rome La Sapienza, author of multiple books on oral history, and writer for the daily newspaper il manifesto

Oral History Without Memory
Sam Robson, oral historian for the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

This session will include a staged reading of Sam Robson’s one-act play Benjamin and Mary, which Sam wrote for his oral history master’s thesis at Columbia. The play is about a Manhattan married couple who review their lives in the wake of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Scheduled to participate are John Culver as Benjamin, Carole Dell’Aquila as Mary, and Simi Toledano as 5am. Afterwards, Sam will discuss ethical and methodological issues with interviewing people with dementia and will answer questions.

Editing for Publication   
Linda Shopes, freelance editor and consultant in oral and public history

The Therapeutic Value of Life History Work
Lauren Taylor, Lecturer, Columbia University School of Social Work

Oral History in the Context of Palliative and End-of-Life Care: Reflections on Life Stories Told Near the End of Life
Michelle Winslow, University Teacher in Adult Palliative and End of Life Care
Oral History Lead, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The full 2017 Summer Institute program can be found here