“Long ago LaGrange was a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and Mayberry USA. It’s been my home 78 years and there’s no place like home,” describes Ruby Duncan about her life in Oldham County. “It’s the dearest place on earth to me ”, wrote PJ Moss when his pioneer family settled in Oldham County many years past. With stories, events and artifacts gathered from the community, the Oldham County Historical Society creates a sense of place and identity for people that live and visit the community so they too can experience “the dearest place on earth”. When the Oldham County Historical Society created the Oldham County History Center in 1999 in LaGrange, Ky, Executive Director, Dr. Nancy Theiss said the historical society devoted much of its resources to research and to the collection of oral histories.
Theiss explained: “Oldham County Fiscal Court directed our society to maintain and organize our court deeds and records that date to the founding of our county in 1824. Just recently we updated our archives and have included a special vault with updated environmental controls to protect the records. In 2001 we expanded our research when we began a partnership with the Library of Congress and started oral histories of veterans. Today the collection includes tapes of veterans from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War and even current engagements such as Afghanistan. We transcribe these histories and many have been published in the Oldham County Neighborhood section of the Courier-Journal.”
“In 2007 we began a partnership called Living Treasures with our local county paper, The Oldham Era. Living Treasures are people who are 60 years or older, and live or have lived in our county at one time or another. We do a detailed oral history of their lives and then it is published each month in the newspaper- it has been a very popular program and is modeled from the Living Treasures program that began in New Mexico to honor our elders and recognize their contributions to society.”
In 2012 the Oldham County Historical Society expanded its oral history program when it entered into a partnership with The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky. The purpose of the partnership is to archive, preserve and support ongoing oral history initiatives created by the Oldham County History Center in LaGrange, Kentucky.
The Oldham County History Center has been collecting oral histories since 2001, including interviews with veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these interviews have been transcribed and published in the Oldham County Neighborhood section of the Louisville Courier Journal. In 2007 the Oldham County History Center began an initiative called Living Treasures, to interview people, 60 years or older, wholive or have lived in Oldham County.
The UK Libraries Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History is internationally recognized for its collection of over 8,000 interviews and for creating innovative digital tools for accessing oral histories online and providing for long term digital preservation. “This is a model partnership” says Dr. Doug Boyd, Nunn Center director. “They have conducted many high quality interviews in their community and want to continue." Boyd notes that, "The Nunn Center provides Oldham County the opportunity to put their interviews online using state of the art solutions, while providing the best ongoing framework with regard to the long term curation of these unique interviews.”
The archival component of the partnership involves the Nunn Center accessioning 200 oral history interviews into the UK collection and digitizing the interviews for both access and preservation. The interviews are prepared for online access in the Nunn Center’s OHMS system. The OHMS system, created by the Nunn Center and UK Libraries Digital Library Services, is a web-based tool to inexpensively and efficiently enhance access to, and discovery of, oral histories online. The OHMS system provides users word-specific search capability and a time-correlated transcript or index, connecting the textual search term to the corresponding moment in the recorded online interview. The Nunn Center will train members of the Oldham County community to use the OHMS system to index the interviews for access in UK’s innovative online system. Additionally, the Nunn Center will serve as a ongoing resource to the Oldham County community providing training for future oral history initiatives.
The Oldham County History Center made a $5,000 unrestricted gift to the Nunn Center to support the ongoing work of the center. The gift comes from funds provided by the Robins Foundation to support veteran’s interviews and exhibits. Private gifts are essential to the preservation of these unique historical records.
According to Dr. Nancy Theiss, Executive Director of the Oldham County History Center, “the partnership with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the University of Kentucky Libraries seems a natural evolution of our focus on research and education.”
“In today’s fast paced world these histories help to ground us by providing the embedded knowledge of experiences from people in our recent past. We live and learn by our role models and oral histories give us a sense of competency and understanding for living our lives. We look forward to working with the Nunn Center and the University of Kentucky to help continue to use oral history to fulfill our mission of research and historical preservation.”
The partnership with the Louie B. Nunn Oral History Department at the University of Kentucky seems a natural evolution of the Oldham County History Center’s focus on research and education. “Using the expedited process of digitization to all of the tapes we have collected and housing the originals at the University of Kentucky not only protects the tapes for perpetuity but will allow greater access to our oral histories, all over the world!” according to Theiss. “In today’s fast paced world these histories help to ground us by providing the embedded knowledge of experiences from people in our recent past. We live and learn by our role models and oral histories give us a sense of competency and understanding for living our lives. We look forward to working with the University of Kentucky to help continue our mission of research and historical preservation.”