01 October 2009

Pittsburgh: Jewish oral histories now online

A local project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has produced 516 oral history interviews now accessible and searchable online.

The story is in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The project - Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community - can be viewed online here. The interviews were made on 11,000 audio cassettes over 32 years - more than 1,200 hours of recordings - and were available online on Tuesday, September 28.

The local NCJW chapter provided the recordings to the University of Pittsburgh's library system, which digitized them and designed a searchable site.

In 1968, volunteers began interviewing the men and women who arrived from Eastern Europe 1890-1924. It expanded to include the oral histories of Pittsburgh's Jewish residents.

"It's one of the largest oral-history projects in the country and perhaps the largest focused on a region — and then a population within that region," said Rush G. Miller, director of Pitt's library system. "We haven't found one larger."
The interviews illustrate such community aspects as academic, business, civic, cultural, medical, political, religious, and social evolution and development in Pittsburgh, national and international events.

Search parameters include given and surnames, geographical list and other subjects and keywords. Topical headings (including local proper names) are found under a generic heading for service or type. Find individuals, hospitals, newspapers, orphanages, synagogues, television and radio stations, fashion, medical and legal specializations. The geographic index includes three categories (Pittsburgh and vicinity, US and outside the US).

Other key pages:

The project's history includes information on two books and two documentaries. There is a 2002 guide available as a PDF.

The tapes have intentionally never been transcribed to encourage researchers the opportunity to hear the actual voices with inflections of the respondents. Rather, all interviews have been accurately abstracted by NCJW members to reflect the balance and content of each interview and to aid researchers in accessing specific information in the interviews. The inclusion of geographic, name and subject indices further enhances research access to information on the tape interviews.
Methodology and use offers more information on the updated guide which offers abstracts and indices (geographic, personal name and subject). Dates given are those provided by the respondent, and Eastern European hometown spellings were determined through "Where Once We Walked" (Avotaynu). Names of regions or provinces - when given - are in parentheses and the country of origin refers to political boundaries of the time.

A timeline of achievements was created to show the project's development.

Visit the site to learn how to order copies of the interviews and of supplemental materials - if available.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:04 AM

    For what it is worth, when I was doing some family research, I came upon a thesis written by a cousin:

    "The Jews in the Hill District of Pittsburgh 1910-1940: A Study in Trends" MA Thesis, Social Administration, Univ. of Pitt. 1943

    If someone were interested in the Jewish history of Pittsburgh, they might want to go to the University of Pittsburgh and see if this is in the library. It might be.