Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed November 11, 1998
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Debut for RI Historical Society Nov. 14

High school, Brown team up to create oral history of 1968 on Web

Students and teachers from South Kingstown High School and members of Brown's Scholarly Technology Group have created a new Web site that turns oral histories from 31 subjects into a multimedia resource for students, teachers and researchers interested in finding out about the history and culture of 1968.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Twenty high school sophomores from South Kingstown High School, their teachers and members of Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group (STG) have created a multimedia Web site that illustrates what Internet learning can be.

The Whole World Was Watching: An Oral History of 1968 - found on the Internet at - uses new technology in new ways. Rather than just put a textbook on line, the project centers on tape-recorded interviews with 31 Rhode Islanders who recalled their memories of that tumultuous year for the high schoolers. The interviews were transcribed and posted to the Web site three ways: in a condensed text version, a full audio version, and a full text version containing cues to audio excerpts.

The task of producing the Web site from some 1,500 pages of transcripts fell to the STG team. Led by editor David Reville, the team did the electronic markup of the material, then organized and designed the site, which includes a condensed version of each interview, a complete transcript, and an audio version of the interview.

STG also developed auxiliary materials that make the site a rich educational tool. The team built a glossary of nearly 400 names, terms and phrases, then created a program that enables a custom-generated glossary to appear at the end of each condensed interview. STG also developed a month-by-month timeline of events that occurred in 1968, and a bibliography, both full of links to audio, visual and printed resources.

At noon Saturday, Nov. 14, 1998, the project will be unveiled to the Rhode Island Historical Society. Many of the people who helped create the project, including some of the students and the interview subjects, will be at the demonstration. Reporters are invited to attend the event, which will be held in the Piano Lounge, 95 Thayer St., Grad Center Tower E on the Brown Campus. The demonstration will be preceeded by a 10:30 a.m. lecture at the Rhode Island Historical Society, 110 Benevolent St. History Professor Maury Klein of the University of Rhode Island will present "Looking Backward: The View From 1968." The public is invited.

The project was sponsored by the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities and NetTech, the Northeast Regional Technology in Education Consortium, of which Brown is a member.

The Whole World Was Watching

The project began with a question: How do you teach communication skills to 20 high school sophomores? At South Kingstown High School, librarian Linda Wood and English teacher Sharon Schmid used oral history to teach these skills to an intermediate writing class which included a unit on communication skills usually taught as a speech unit.

"Students who might find history a boring collection of facts are turned on by their direct involvement in the stories of people who were there as events occurred," Wood writes in her comments on the Web site. "Oral history is an example of the best kind of learning because it actively engages the students, using their natural curiosity about other people to provide an emotional context too often missing from textbook lessons."

To prepare for their interviews, the students read literature that covered the themes on which the project focused: Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, the protest movement, the peace movement, women's rights, politics and popular culture.

The students then tape-recorded interviews with 31 Rhode Islanders to gather the narrators' memories about 1968. Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr discussed his service as a Marine in Vietnam. Former Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy talked about the violence he saw at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Porter Halyburton talked about being a prisoner of war. Brown Dean of the Faculty Kathy Spoehr recounted her work as a student activist.

"By doing an oral history project, my students learned about the history of this nation first-hand from people from all walks of life," Schmid wrote in her Web comments. "Best of all, they became real authors - writers of history."

The Scholarly Technology Group

Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group (STG) was formed in 1994 to provide institutional leadership in humanities computing and advanced support for Brown's computing projects. To accomplish this, STG develops new technologies, practices and specialized tools, and provides consulting and project management services to academic projects.

STG's special areas of expertise are textbase development, electronic publishing and hypertext and hypermedia, particularly in the humanities. Projects cover a wide range of disciplines and activities, from helping develop a Web-based environment for teaching Bocaccio's Decameron to designing a catalogue of South Asian manuscripts; from helping develop a Web-based bibliography of Catalan literature to helping high school students work with an oral historian to create and publish on the Web a multimedia oral history of people such as those featured in The Whole World Was Watching: An Oral History of 1968.

These projects and others are described on the STG web site: