A Shared Authority

Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History

By Michael Frisch

Subjects: Oral History
Series: SUNY series in Oral and Public History
Paperback : 9780791401330, 273 pages, May 1990
Hardcover : 9780791401323, 273 pages, May 1990

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Table of contents



I. Memory, History, and Cultural Authority



1. Oral History and Hard Times: A Review Essay
2. The Memory of History
3. American History and the Structures of Collective Memory: A Modest Exercise in Empirical Iconography


II. Interpretive Authority in Oral History



4. Oral History and the Presentation of Class Consciousness: The New York Times v. The Buffalo Unemployed
5. Preparing Interview Transcripts for Documentary Publication: A Line-by-Line Illustration of the Editing Process
6. Presenting and Receiving Oral History across Cultural Space: A Note on Responses of Chinese Students to the Documentary Trilogy One Village in China
7. Oral History, Documentary, and the Mystification of Power: A Critique of Vietnam: A Television History


III. A Shared Authority: Scholarship, Audience, and Public Presentation



8. Quality in History Programs: From Celebration to Exploration of Values
9. Town Into City: A Reconsideration on the Occasion of Springfield's 350th Anniversary, 1636-1986
10. "Get the Picutre?": A Review Essay
11. Audience Expectations as Resource and Challenge: Ellis Island as a Case Study
12. Urban Public History in Celebratory Contexts: The Example of the "Philadelphia's Moving Past" Project
13. The Presentation of Urban History in Big City Museums



Michael Frisch is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies at State University of New York at Buffalo.


"Frisch's essays penetrate the historical consciousness of the nation and expose its distortions. He is not afraid to 'depart from the usual academic form. ' This volume ranges from insightful essays and interviews to book and film reviews, but despite its sweep of subjects and form, its pieces build coherently upon each other. This is an entertaining, illuminating, and provocative body of work.

"Two pieces from the book—evaluating the New York Times' editing of oral history for publication, and the PBS documentary "Vietnam: A Television History"—provide especially strong examples of the intellectual insight and importance of this book. Both analyze not only the content of the presentations but the omissions, penetrating the values of the editors and raising serious questions about the packaging of history for the public.

"Frisch lends a critical ear to the public presentation of history, particularly history drawing from oral sources. He hears not only what was said, but who said it, and what was asked of them. He questions the assumptions and motivations that transformed oral testimony into publications and documentary films, and the ways in which those products have been popularly received. " — Donald A. Ritchie, U. S. Senate Historical Office