Recently, it is planned that I will help an old professor to write his oral history. Though I saw some oral history books of architects at SOM,  it is a pity I didn’t bother myself to open them and have a look at them.

Therefore, it is a brandnew project for me, to learn through working on it.

Oral history is defined as “the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information, based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker.” (wikipedia)

As a typical example, a rich vein of city records from Sept. 11, were made public on Aug. 12, 2005 and the New York Times has published all of them. It included more than 12,000 pages of oral histories rendered in the voices of 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. Here is the link:

In my study of MLIS, I was amazed quite a few times at the rich preservation of records and archives in America, compared with its comparatively short history. Both the techniques, old or new, and the contents, important or trivial, of preservation are enormous.

I once posted a link onto class blog of “Archives and Records Management”, about Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project ( by Department of Special Collection, University of California, Santa Barbara. These cylinder recordings, the first commercially produced sound recordings, are a snapshot of musical and popular culture in the decades around the turn of the 20th century. You can listen to online streaming radio, or download in MP3 file or wav file, etc.

Thinking back the history of China, we don’t know how much we lost, but we know how little we have reserved. No one will remember us if we don’t leave a trace to this world. We may not become some milestone in history, still we at least deserve some marks on its road, either in words, sound or image.

Everyone is striving, in one way or another, to leave some record to this world history, politicians, military soldiers, scientists, writers. What can I leave? Shall I start with this oral history? What else can I do?

First of all, let me read a memoir by Gunter Grass, “Peeling the Onion”. As he said, “The onion has many skins … Peeled, it renews itself; chopped, it brings tears; only during peeling does it speak the truth.”