Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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Oral History Workshop...for Budding Booze Historians?

The Southern Foodways Alliance is known for its annual Autumn conference that brings together chefs, cooks, writers, journalists, historians, farmers, brewers, distillers, and eaters for days of talks about the food and drink of the American South. But that's just once a year. The rest of the year the group, based out of the University of Mississippi, works to document and preserve the historic and modern elements of those foodways through other means such as research, documentary film, and oral histories.

It also offers an annual workshop for graduate and undergraduate students on conducting oral histories. This year, the workshop runs May 29th-June 1st. From the SFA:
Conducting oral history interviews offers young scholars a unique opportunity to hone a variety of skills: communication, research, documenting, archiving, writing, and more.Through the collection of fieldwork, create primary sources for use in future scholarly research. Oral history is experiential learning at its best.  
Although I am a past board member of the SFA, I've got no say in who's admitted to the workshop. It occurs to me, though, that a budding booze historian who presents a convincing letter of intent to the group might just win a spot at the table. Again, the SFA:
The focus will be on digital audio and still photographs, applied to the study of foodways. Workshop participants will be introduced to the field via examples from the SFA archive, become familiar with equipment, acquire interviewing skills, explore the art of documentary photography, and learn a variety of processing techniques.
The main focus of the SFA is not alcohol, but food and drink broadly — and so that includes spirits. In fact, the group has already conducted and posted a series of oral histories on bartenders of New Orleans (here). What other topics could your own oral histories cover? Moonshine, sure. Distillery workers. Bootleggers. Liquor salesmen. Brewers. Other New Orleans bartenders. That's just a start...and just the alcohol-related ideas off the top of my own head.

The April 20th deadline is fast approaching. Pitch your idea to the group (application directions are here). Also note that two minority scholarships are available to help defray costs of attending.

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