The Concord Academy community is engaged in an oral history collection project. “We think this is a great way to gather data and build community,” says History Department Head Kim Frederick.
Frederick has always been intrigued with the way other institutions “keep their own history.” As CA’s 90th anniversary approached, Frederick wanted to undertake a project that could systematically archive and share some of CA’s own history.
With the help of Assistant Dean of Community and Equity Ayres Stiles-Hall and Community and Equity team member Jennifer Cardillo, the event got underway on September 20.
Every CA student was assigned a random partner and a list of questions. The participants were asked to answer the questions and record the conversation. Faculty and staff were also encouraged to participate. The questions included, “Where did you grow up, and what was it like there?” and “What is your earliest memory of CA? What feelings did/does that moment elicit?” The students were also asked to photograph three of their favorite places on campus. The initial question was designed to be contextual. The subsequent questions were designed to probe more deeply into each person’s memories and feelings about CA.
“The stories people told were so fascinating. Part of what I was hoping to capture is the freshness of the freshmen. I think we really did that,” says Frederick.
What kinds of things did students share? That Concord Academy is a place where “you can be yourself and no one is going to judge you.” Another student said that a recent trip home made her “realize how much I love the people here and these are the kind of friends I want to have for the rest of my life.”
Stiles-Hall says he originally envisioned the program as a “community-building exercise” but the end result was unexpected in many ways. “This was a chance to really focus on the community part of community and equity, but I noticed as the students listened to each other’s stories and learned about each other’s backgrounds, the exercise became an expression of diversity too,” says Stiles-Hall.
In all, close to two hundred recordings were produced by both students and faculty. “The plan is to being archiving these conversations and sharing them in some way. We hope to create edited pieces that we can post in various places,” says Frederick. “I was nervous about this in the beginning but after hearing and seeing the response I want to do this with every single new freshman class. There is a shared sense of connection that I would love to see explored.”
Frederick also hopes to expand the project to include alumnae/i and other members of the CA community, in order to more fully capture the history of the school.
In fact, on October 20, 2012, at the fall meeting of the Alumnae/i Association members of Concord Academy's alumnae/i community are invited to share their own stories about Concord Academy. Small groups will tour campus with stops at memorable places such as Haines House, the Chapel, and the boat house, where conversations between alumnae/i and students will be recorded. Capturing these individual narratives will help tell the story of how this institution has evolved.
If you are a member of the CA alumnae/i community and would like to participate in the oral history project please contact Director of Alumnae/i Programs Billie Julier Wyeth '76 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-402-2232.