Posted: December 6, 2017
Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Program began in 2003 as an initiative which grew from the realization that Charleston was rapidly losing members of the generation involved with the founding of Historic Charleston Foundation. At that time, the decision was made to videotape hour-long interviews with former trustees and other pioneers in the preservation movement in Charleston. The goal was to document memories about the founding of HCF and local preservation efforts, and the first-hand accounts of life in Charleston in the earlier part of the 20th century. Fifteen interviews were completed during this first “phase” including Joseph “Peter” McGee, Herbert DeCosta, Elizabeth “Liz” Young, Mayor Joseph Riley, and William Murtagh.
More recently, HCF’s efforts have expanded to include interviews with residents of specific neighborhoods who speak about neighborhood history and their experiences with neighborhood changes over time; owners of historic homes who purchased their home through one of HCF’s revolving fund programs; and Charleston craftspeople whose restoration work has contributed to Charleston’s preservation legacy. Featured above is HCF’s April Wood interviewing Joyce Howard from the New Israel Reformed Episcopal Church.
The South Carolina Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, recently awarded HCF a planning grant to revive the existing oral history program. This generous award enabled HCF to purchase equipment for collecting oral histories and to conduct workshops and training sessions with staff. The staff training and access to video and audio equipment will enable HCF to continue to collect quality oral histories on a long-term basis.
There are many more oral histories to come! They will be available for viewing at Historic Charleston Foundation’s Archives (by appointment), and will eventually be added to HCF’s collections on the Lowcountry Digital Library.