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Voice of Witness

Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award winners Dave Eggers and Mimi Lok describe how oral history can help illuminate ongoing human rights crises.


Conversation Club

  1. What is the mission of Voice of Witness? What are your impressions of it after watching this video?
  2. In this video the term “oral history” is used. Had you heard that expression before? What does it mean?
  3. One initiative of Voice of Witness is to bring people’s personal stories into the classroom so students can learn from them. Why do you think this might be a powerful educational tool?
  4. Several book covers are shown during this video. These are the collected stories of contemporary people impacted by a human rights crisis or a human rights injustice. What were some of the crises or injustices shown?
  5. Several reasons were given for why people would choose to tell painful, even traumatic, personal stories. What were those reasons? Can you think of any others?
  6. Oral histories don’t only have to cover human rights crises. What other types of stories might be recorded as oral histories?
  7. Is there a story that is part of your own family, community or culture’s history that comes to mind for an oral history project?
  8. As a closing activity, write your own short personal story. Your story can be as playful or as serious as you want.

For more information on Voice of Witness, visit their Web site. For more inspiration on telling personal stories, visit their sister site, 826 National.

For more information on creating oral histories, please see the Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide here.


Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Education. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Expanding College Opportunities
Expanding College Opportunities
Is Human Evolution Over?
Is Human Evolution Over?
Voice of Witness
Voice of Witness
A Passionate Educator
A Passionate Educator