Ben Weiss of the Medal Collectors of America (MCA) forwarded this announcement of an exciting project the club is undertaking. -Editor The Medal Collectors of America has posted on its website a new feature, Oral History of Medallic Art, based on interviews of prominent medal collectors, dealers, curators and other historians of medallic art. The interviews will be available for listening on our website at: www.medalcollectors.org
The ORAL HISTORY feature will be set up in a similar way as that which links to MEMBERS' CORNER currently on the site. By clicking on the ORAL HISTORY link, the viewer will get a new page with introductory remarks, a list of the interviewers, the medallic historian being interviewed and brief descriptions of the content of the interviews. If the interview is very long, it would likely be broken up into sections so the download time is reasonable. The link to these oral histories will be available on every page of the website. As of this date, two oral histories have been posted. Many more are forthcoming.
The Oral History of Medallic Art project is the result of a close collaboration between the MCA webmaster Ben Weiss and several other members of the MCA, notably, John Adams, John Sallay, and Bob Fritsch. Special thanks go to Mark Schlepphorst, who did most of the initial work in setting up the technical aspects of the project and who has so generously offered to do the very large job of editing the interviews before they are posted, and to Dick Johnson, who not only provided several useful suggestions concerning the interviews but who also serves as one of the interviewers for this project.
This novel project will constitute an important new addition to our body of knowledge of the History of Medallic Art. The Internet is uniquely suited for this venture for it allows rapid and readily accessible dissemination of this information. By posting the interviews on our website it will place the MCA at the forefront of documenting the early history of the field of Medallic Art and making it readily available for all to hear and view.
The MCA's John Sallay submitted the following background on the project. -Editor The MCA Board has recently been meeting monthly via conference call, with much discussion focused on expanding our organization’s range of activities and more deeply involving a larger number of members. One idea that generated immediate support – and then took on new urgency with the recent passing of a few very prominent long-time collectors and medalists – was the MCA Oral History Project.
The idea is to interview “old-timers” in order to capture the knowledge they’ve never had time to write down and record their recollections of the people and events that got us collectively where we are today. The concept is as old as written history itself, but taking oral histories has become a much more widely used tool with the advent of tape recorders, film, and videotape.
Since the MCA is a geographically dispersed organization, however, there were some challenges. First, we wrestled with how to get one or more enthusiastic members to meet with interesting subjects on a more than one-off basis. We’re rarely together and when we are, like at the ANA Convention or an auction, there are always other things going on. We also discussed how best to capture and share the interviews, since we didn’t want to have either one person responsible for a single recording device or have to deal with multiple recording formats. Finally, we talked about what to do with all of these recordings, since the MCA doesn’t have a central library.
Dick Johnson, who is an expert in taking oral histories, introduced me to Mark Schlepphorst, a relatively newer MCA member whose professional activity has overlapped with our various technical challenges. Mark initially suggested buying a device similar to what police departments use to record 911 calls. We could conduct the interviews over the phone, record them in a digital format rather than on tape, edit the recordings, and then post them on our MCA website. That way, anyone could listen to them on his or her computer or even download them onto an iPod or similar device. At this point, MCA webmaster Ben Weiss got more deeply involved in the project, and we discussed how exactly the process would work from beginning to end, both technically and practically.
At the recent MCA meeting held during the Baltimore ANA, we outlined the project and mentioned the concept of buying the phone-recording gizmo, perhaps sending it around by mail to members who wanted to conduct interviews. Bob Fritsch raised a key idea that he had raised previously on one of the board calls, only this time it registered. Why not use just a web-based conference calling service that offers recording capability? While there would be per-minute toll charges to the MCA, we would save all of the up-front cost and wouldn’t need to hassle with any physical machinery. Any member with a phone, computer and the necessary dial-in code could simply conduct an interview and arrange with Ben to post the recording on the MCA website.
Mark explored a number of conference calling services and found one that seems like it will best suit our needs. Mark Schlepphorst has agreed to coordinate the project from here, with Mark and Ben Weiss involved in editing and Ben in posting the interviews. Dick Johnson has volunteered to summarize his experience in conducting these sorts of interviews and outline a standard approach for all of us to follow. He has also volunteered to conduct the first few interviews, to show us how it’s done.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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