Oral History Research Office and NYU Child Study Center receive grant for oral history project


(NEW YORK, May 19, 2004) The Oral History Research Office (OHRO) at Columbia University and the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center have partnered to create "Telling Lives Project: September 11 Stories," a project to help youth in New York City's Chinatown use oral history methods to explore the legacy of September 11, 2001.

Funded by the ChevronTexaco Foundation, "Telling Lives Project: September 11 Stories" is an innovative collaboration between leaders in the fields of oral history, education, trauma therapy, and public history. It is based on two successful after-school pilot projects in Brooklyn and Chinatown conducted by the OHRO in 2003. The aim of the project is to build community and individual resilience among middle-school youth through encouraging them to listen to and tell the stories of their ancestors, their community leaders, and elders in Chinatown. The ChevronTexaco Foundation funded the project with an interest in exploring the value of oral history as an alternative to traditional Western therapies for youth and others affected long-term by catastrophic events such as September 11.

OHRO and NYU are working with the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas and Downtown Community Television to develop youth-created artworks, books, videos, and exhibits based on first-person interviews with elders and leaders in the communities of Chinatown. Columbia University and NYU are working with students and faculty at IS 126 and MS 131 in New York City. The exhibit opening of the student work is scheduled for Saturday, June 12, 2004 from 4:30-6:00pm at Silk Road Mocha at 30 Mott Street. For more information contact Danielle Grillo at (212) 263-2479.

"This unique partnership allows us to support schools, youth, and families in the delicate process of living with the aftermath of September 11, 2001," said Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Oral History Research Office. "We are deeply grateful to the ChevronTexaco Foundation, as well as our partners, for having the vision to support a program that will have a lasting legacy in the hearts and minds of youth who are Chinatown's future leaders."

This spring, a team of oral history interviewers and psychologists are teaching an oral history curriculum in eight middle school classrooms in New York City's Chinatown, a community that was particularly hard hit by the attacks on the World Trade Center. The classes train the students in the art of oral history interviewing, and provide them with opportunities and resources to interview members of their community about how they survived major historic events including September 11, 2001.

The youth interpret these stories in a variety of media, using critical thinking skills and artistic resources, to demonstrate the relevance of "Telling Lives" across generations. The Museum of the Chinese in the Americas and Downtown Community Television are providing professional guidance to help youth develop audio and visual recordings, literary journals, photography, and exhibitions. The students also receive training in digital photography, bookmaking, theater, storytelling, and creative writing to help them create their own artifacts of the experience.

The NYU Child Study Center is providing all participating students, as well as students from a control group, the opportunity to participate in a study testing the efficacy of oral history as an alternative therapy that can have a positive impact on children's resilience and overall mental health.

"This program will not only contribute to the history of 9/11, but will also help to foster a sense of community, and in turn, build resiliency in these young people," Dr. Marylene Cloitre, Director of the Institute for Trauma and Stress at the NYU Child Study Center explained. "Our hope is that this program will provide evidence that recovery from trauma can be facilitated in contexts other than traditional therapies. The goal of the program assessment is to identify and understand ways that this can happen."

The NYU Child Study Center and the OHRO will collaborate to publish findings from the grant, and to write a curriculum guide for educators who want to implement "The Telling Lives" program in their classrooms.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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