Oral history project will track past and future of work in Marion
Dec. 16, 2013
Written by Kurt Moore
The Marion Star
English students at The Ohio State University at Marion will collect stories of workers involved in Marion County’s science, industry and technology. They will interview people formerly and currently involved in the area’s industry and technology. If you want to volunteer, a form is available at http://osumarion.osu.edu/memories.
MARION — Students at The Ohio State University at Marion will document Marion’s proud manufacturing past in an upcoming English project. First, they need the community’s help.
Two second-year writing classes taught by Sue Oakes, one focused on English students and the other on engineering students, will soon start collecting oral histories of workers. The project will focus on residents’ involvement in, and attitudes toward, science, industry and technology.
The project aims to document the technical history of workers, their families, jobs and businesses in central Ohio. Oakes said she will need to find people willing to be interviewed by students. A form for volunteers to fill out is available on The Ohio State at Marion website.
“I really have to find the right contacts to get my kids in the door,” Oakes said.
Volunteers can go to osumarion.osu.edu/memories where they will find a link asking them to share their stories. Participants are asked to share where they work and leave information about how they can be contacted.
They are also asked to describe the significant aspects of their work life, including jobs they held in north central Ohio and innovations in science, industry and technology that they saw or participated in developing.
Oakes’ project ties into Ohio State Marion’s efforts to expand its engineering program, which lets students get two years of studies in engineering before transferring to the main campus in Columbus.
It follows others tied to Marion’s industrial past. The Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative, a partnership between Tri-Rivers Career Center, Marion Technical College and Ohio State Marion opened at Tri-Rivers in 2013, includes a display paying tribute to manufacturers such as Marion Power Shovel. Local historians and authors Stuart Koblentz and Randy Winland detailed Marion’s standing as an industrial center in their books written on the city’s history.
Oakes wants to get workers’ stories, not only those who worked at Marion’s former workplaces but those still here.
It could be an employee who has worked for a company for years or a new employee.
“There’s not a bad interview,” she said. “Just the one we didn’t get.”
Once completed, the public will be able to hear the stories. The website states the project will increase community awareness of local history on a topic central to the community. It will also preserve memories, including those of an aging generation of workers.
The project will explore ways in which science and technology shaped local cultures.
Students will get to help collect and preserve history. Those majoring in engineering will get to explore topics relevant to their future careers.
Oakes had previously focused on a project through which students interviewed residents regarding how they identified the “American Dream.” Those interviews, unlike these, were not opened to the public. Oakes said these will be open to research.
She said she is eager to have students talk to people with knowledge of Marion’s labor history.
“They’ve been waiting for someone to ask them,” she said. “They haven’t thought of themselves in the context of American history.”
Oakes said students also do better academically if they are engaged.
“The best way is to make it real,” she said.
If the project is successful, she hopes that Ohio State Marion will have an archive similar to one at the University of Akron.
She also looks at the project as a way to encourage pride in Marion, letting people view it for something other than the crime stories people often see on TV.
“We’ve had this astonishing culture, but what does someone know about Marion if they never lived here?” she asked.
Oakes’ own interest is personal. Her dad worked as an engineer for 37 years before retiring. She worked at his firm during summers when she was younger and got “a taste of what engineers did.”
“I have always been interested in technology more than your typical English major,” she said.