By Melissa Voss, News Editor
On Wednesday, May 1, the LGBTQIA2S+ Program hosted a coffee chat presenting on the development of Morris’ queer oral history project. Calleigh Schuppan, a Morris Academic Partner (MAP), has been doing research on the creation of the University of Minnesota Morris queer oral history project alongside Adrienne Conley, assistant director for student life and coordinator for LGBTQIA2S+ programs, and Associate Professor Jennifer Rothchild.
The goal of the University of Minnesota Morris oral history project is to collect the experience revolving around the past queer individuals who have come and left the Morris community. Inspired by the Tretter Oral History project in Twin Cities, the oral history project is still in the early stages of development, but Schuppan has, as Conley described, “secured the seed in order to produce something great.”
Over the course of her research, Schuppan has studied other oral history projects on the national, state, and the University of Minnesota system level. Some institutions she has gotten in contact with include the New York City Trans Oral History Project, the Tretter Transgender Oral History Project in the Twin Cities, and the Minnesota Historical Society of Oral History. Schuppan also gathered information from the Nan Alamilla Boyd and Horacio N. Roque Ramírez novel “Bodies of Evidence: The Practice of Queer Oral History,” which focuses on the centrality in the body in storytelling and the political nature of queer storytelling. Throughout the course of the research, she became familiar with the general structure of other oral history projects, as well as learning the proper guidelines, paperwork, and practices needed to conduct interviews.
Another part of Schuppan’s research has been conducting practice interviews. She stated that this was perhaps the most challenging part of the MAP research because it is a different style of interviewing that she has not encountered before: “It is not like an anthropologist study, there is a shift in your mind from seeking information to looking at the process of storytelling as a whole….to connect with the narrator in self experience and research from a place of empathy.”
The future steps of the oral history project lie in four areas: training Gender and Sexuality Advocates (GSAs) for conducting interviews, collecting stories, developing an online space for the interviews, and incorporating indigenous methodologies such as talking circles. As for the near future, Schuppan is creating a guidebook for GSAs on how to conduct interviews and create an open, dialogue-based atmosphere with the interviewees, or ‘narrators’, they are interviewing.
After Schuppan’s presentation, the floor was opened up to questions, comments, and ideas from the audience.
Photo above courtesy of University of Nebraska Lincoln