Interviews in the Krueger-Scott collection are based on a 14-page questionnaire developed by project leader Catherine J. Lenix-Hooker, historians Giles W. Wright and Dr. Clement A. Price, and project coordinator Mageline Little, that focused on nearly every aspect of life in the South, the mechanics of migrating to the North and the rich and varied experiences of the migrants who undertook the journey. Citizen volunteers were trained to interview their peers, resulting in narratives both data rich and conversational, allowing the listener an opportunity to eavesdrop on history by those who made it.
Digitally preserved by graduate students in the Rutgers University-Newark American Studies graduate program, interviews from the collection were developed into undergraduate curricular material through the Newest Americans initiative beginning in 2014. Students in Journalism courses used narrators’ stories of living through late 1960’s Urban Renewal projects as a jumping off point to develop their own written and multimedia explorations of the changing Newark cityscape. A Theatre course employed interviews from the collection to introduce students to the concept of narrative development. Public History undergraduates encountered the collection as a model of collaborative scholarship between the university, the local community, and the civic institutions that for years supported and housed the project.
The “GlassBook Project: Provisions” exhibit at Newark’s Gateway Gallery will bring these remarkable life narratives back into circulation in the city that created them. The ambitious scope of the exhibition, featuring students’ work, visual projections, a sound installation, printed copies of the interview questionnaire in the form of multicolored bound books, and material from the City of Newark archives represents the best kind of collaboration between the Arts and Academia – one historically rich, contemporarily relevant and emotionally resonant.
The Center for Migration and the Global City—in partnership with the Newark Public Library, Newark Museum, New Jersey Historical Society and Rutgers University Libraries—has also been instrumental in the digital indexing of the oral history interviews, working to enable greater access to the material for students, researchers and laypersons alike. Through Talking Eyes Media and photographers from VII Photo we are now able to share these remarkable narratives with an even wider audience through vibrant visual and multimedia pieces developed for Newest Americans. By pushing the boundaries of traditional oral history applications, Newest Americans continues to create new constituencies for the life stories so bravely lived and generously shared.