An Interview with SOHA President Jennifer Keil

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Image above: Jennifer Keil and Cindy Keil at SOHA at OHA 2019

  1. Jennifer Keil, how did you become involved in SOHA?

I presented at the 2013 Oral History Association meeting in Oklahoma City organized by Cora Granata at the Center for Oral and Public History with a panel of graduate students chaired by Alessandro Portelli. Karen Harper, SOHA Past-President, invited our panel to present at Tempe, Arizona the following spring. During these years, I realized my passion for the spoken work and preservation techniques to make it accessible to communities online. As a graduate student, I instituted a community oral history project at the Balboa Island Museum with Cindy Keil, SOHA California Delegate. We founded 70 Degrees in order to facilitate historical consulting and conduct oral history interviews. We led a workshop at the 2017 Tempe SOHA conference.

  1. Why did you become involved in SOHA?

I was at the University of California, Davis attending the Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History conference when I reconnected with Marcie Gallo, SOHA Past-President. I noticed the California Delegate vacancy and volunteered to fill the role. I was voted into the board in Del Mar, CA in 2015.

Since then, I’ve served on committees and chaired our 2018 conference at CSU, Fullerton. I became the 1st VP and am now the 2019-2021 President. I hope to grow our student membership and mentorship program. I hope to increase our scholarship and grant funds to support additional scholars. Please reach out to the board if you’d like to serve on a committee. We are looking to expand our marketing (newsletter, social media, website) and conference planning (local arrangements, outreach) teams.

  1. What have you enjoyed about SOHA? What are some of your favorite experiences with SOHA?

I have enjoyed our diverse community of oral historians who capture the narratives of many communities. I have been inspired by the scholarship and commitment to preserve memories. One of my favorite initiatives was to develop our social media presence. I created news.southwestoralhistory.org in order to feature our members. Currently, I am working on building remote oral history resources, programs, and projects. Please contact me if you’d like to be added to our list.

I love how we have collaborated with the Oral History Association (OHA) on regional conferences such as the ones that were held in Long Beach and Salt Lake City. This partnership has increased our network and commitment to best practices. I have enjoyed serving on OHA and SOHA’s conference and award committees.

  1. What oral history projects have you been working on lately or plan to do in the near future? Did you plan to attend the SOHA 2020 annual conference? If so, are you planning to present and what about? If you plan to attend only, what do you look forward to with the conference?

My latest project is the development of the Moulton Museum and the Korean Consulate’s pioneer collection in Omeka. I am working on a local history collection on Rancho Niguel history. We are capturing diverse voices from California Bracero farmers, OC Park rangers, developers, and ranchers. This has helped us understand the county’s land transformation from Basque sheepherders to commercial development. The SOHA 2020 panel Education and Oral History will take a closer look at online collections and how to facilitate strategic community partnerships at museums and government archives.

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Image above: Sarah Moorehead, Suzi Resnik, and Jennifer Keil, SOHA at OHA 2019 in Salt Lake City, UT

  1. What other thoughts/insights would you like to share?

I am a member of the Oral History Association Archives Interest Group. It’s one of the committees that has distinguished speakers and relevant topics. In this age of remote interviewing, a strong network can help you develop your project. You can learn about technology at Oral History in the Digital Age. If you would like to share how you are conducting interviews, please share with our summer newsletter readers. Articles are typically 100-250 words with photos and captions. Submissions are due Friday, May, 29 2020 to soha@unlv.edu.

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