How-To: Preserving Memory
"Everyone has a story," the renowned anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff taught us, and these stories "told to oneself and others can transform the world." At the Jewish Women's Archive, we believe that every woman's story matters. Through recording our stories and caring for the important artifacts in our lives, we can all become custodians of our family histories, while building a valuable body of materials that will provide insight into women’s lives for scholars, educators, and others.
Over the past half century, oral history has become an important vehicle for giving voice to the life experiences of American Jewish women. Whether the "narrator" is a woman of distinctive achievement, or is one of countless women who spent their lives raising families and building communities, each of them has a story to tell that is worth preserving. The oral history resources of the Jewish Women’s Archive provide tools for individuals and groups to conduct interviews with the important Jewish women in their own lives.
Our stories also connect us to the artifacts that we and our families have accumulated over time. But photographs and documents do not last forever without care, nor will they reveal their full meaning to coming generations if the stories connected to them are not preserved. At the most basic level, this involves noting when and where a document or photo was created and the names of the people portrayed. But we can add immeasurably to their value for future generations by capturing the stories behind the images and documents.
The Jewish Women’s Archive invites you to join us in making history. Click on the links below to access JWA’s oral history and preservation tools and guidelines:
- Basic preservation tips for your family papers is a quick introduction to the basics on how to care for aging documents, as well as links to resources on the web to learn more or purchase preservation materials.
- In Our Own Voices: A Guide to Conducting Life History Interviews with American Jewish Women is a comprehensive how-to guide for individuals and groups interested in interviewing women in their own lives. The guide features the Jewish Women's Archive's Topic Guide to Life History Interviews with essays by leading scholars and hundreds of sample questions.
- Twenty Questions to Ask the Important Women in Your Life provides a set of innovative questions for eliciting women's stories for use in your family, classroom, or community program.
The Jewish Women's Archive supports individuals and groups in learning how to use oral history to preserve women's life experiences. We are also exploring software to facilitate organizing digital images and to assist in their preservation as well. Please contact us for more information.