October 7, 2010

(Oral) History in Kentucky


For those of you interested in any kind of Kentucky history, espcially those interested in oral history, spend some time browsing through the Kentucky Historical Society website. According to the website KHS "packages the state's heritage in resources and educational programming of all kinds--from tours and lectures to hands-on workshops, special events and publications." It's truly a gold mine of information--any of you who are working on oral history projects in KY should check here for an excellent list of funding opportunities. Of the 9,000 oral histories in their collection, those in the Burley Tobacco Oral History Project are especially nice. 

The Society is also where Wendell Berry plans to donate his papers after pulling them from University of Kentucky this past June. The following is an excerpt from Charlie Pearl's State Journal interview with Wendell about the papers controversy. 

Talk about what has happened regarding the decision to pull many of your personal papers from the University of Kentucky’s archives.
I’m sad about it. The ideal thing would have been for my papers to be there. William Marshall was the archivist when the university made that purchase of my papers before I began to deposit these on loan and he asked at that time if I would donate them. I said I have two children farming and these papers have a value, and if I come to feel that the university is really serving the interest of people like my children who hope to prosper on small farms, then I may consider donating them.
          But until they’re secure and I’m assured of the university’s interest in people like them, I’m not going to do it. And I’m not na├»ve. I was not at all inclined to make an issue of the university’s manifest lack of concern about surface mining in Eastern Kentucky and it’s ecological implications, it’s implications for the forests, for the survival of the wild creatures and maybe preeminently for the rural people there that a land grant university is mandated to look after and help. This form of mining is literally hell for the people who live near those mine sites. I know some of them and I’ve heard the testimony of many others and I’ve seen with my own eyes what they’re going through.
          I understood that it was probably too much to expect, even a land grant university, to take an interest in those things. But when the university accepted that ($7 million) gift and agreed to name their basketball dormitory after the coal industry, that meant they had passed over from indifference to a manifest alliance with the coal industry. I don’t think a university ought to make an alliance with any industry. I know that’s going on at other universities, and I think it’s always a breach of intellectual integrity and reputability and a breach of public obligation. That is a public university. It ought not to be allying itself with a private interest of any kind. When that happened, that made it impossible for me to tacitly accept that in terms of my own relationship with the university. So the question I had to answer was whether I wanted to be associated with the university on its terms, and the answer I had to give is that I don’t.

What has to happen before your papers can go to the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort?
The Historical Society people and (wife) Tanya and I have now sat down together and talked, and they understand my conditions, I believe. They’ve written me a letter that I am now going to think about and probably show to my attorney just to make sure that everything that ought to be talked about and understood has been taken care of.

Do you think there’s a good chance that’s where they’ll go?
I think there’s a very good chance that’s where they will go.

(via: http://www.state-journal.com/news/simple_article/4854154)

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