Memory Loss and Mixed Ability Interviewing


Let Us All Our Voices Raise is an ongoing workshop sequence designed to broaden the range of voices engaged in oral history practice and to support the collection of oral histories from diverse groups of narrators underrepresented in our field and in our archives.You can read more about the OHSS initiative, here.

Our first workshop in the new series will be led by Dina Zempsky and Nicki Pombier Berger, with additional instruction by Suzanne Snider.

A geriatric social worker and Program Director at StoryCorps, Dina is responsible for developing StoryCorps’ The Memory Loss Initiative, which supports the recording of stories of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Best practices from Dina’s training can also be related to conducting interviews with people with traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s and other forms of cognitive loss. Dina will lead two days of instruction and will support our interview practice. She will also offer a brief clinical understanding of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Nicki, who works at the intersection of intellectual disability and social change, will lead us on days four and five. In 2013, she created an online oral history-based collection of stories from self-advocates with Down syndrome (“Nothing About Us Without Us”). Currently, she works on two projects that apply oral history to intellectual disability: the TILL Living Legacy Project and “A Fierce Kind of Love.” Nicki will discuss the history of intellectual disability in the United States, and the significance of using oral history with people with intellectual disabilities as a form of advocacy. In addition to leading two days of instruction, Nicki will support our interview practice with preparation and feedback.

Beyond these areas of expertise, the workshop will address Dina and Nicki’s common pursuit of ethical collaboration with narrators who may employ nontraditional communication styles.

Workshop days will be divided between exercises, short talks, hands-on tutorials, listening sessions, project design, and interview practice. Participants will have an opportunity to collaborate with interviewees. A sample schedule of a workshop day can be found, below.

This workshop is appropriate for: caregivers, novice or experienced oral historians who want to broaden their training, social advocates, health advocates, documentary filmmakers, radio documentarians, social workers, family historians, teachers, students, those working at various social agencies, and disability scholars or students, among others.

Sample Schedule (Day Two):
9 am A brief clinical understanding of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia
10 am Interview issues: anxiety, depression, twilighting
11 am Role-play exercises
12 pm Lunch (on your own)
1 pm Legal releases, consent issues, and power of attorney
2 pm Social contexts for narratives: legacy projects, reminiscence groups, self-advocacy.
4 pm Listening Session and Discussion
5 pm End
5:30 pm (Optional) Community dinner at Camphill
7 pm (Optional) recording tutorial with Lauren Kelly + film screening