Jean Coday Oral History Interview

Title Card for the VideoToday’s post is doing double duty. In the first half, Jean Coday has long been the driving force behind the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Home and Museum. Coday’s interview reveals how she got involved with the museum, what role she’s played, and a little bit about Laura’s life in Mansfield. In the second half, I’m going to talk about oral history as a research method. Not a lot of people have a very clear idea in their minds of what research looks like. I like to share examples to help people clarify it in their minds.

This is an excellent example of what an oral history interview is like. An important part of oral history is including indexes and transcripts. Below the video are my notes with general time codes.

 

Ozarks Voices: Jean Coday, Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, July 14, 2014

Ozark Voices is an oral history project undertaken by the Missouri State University Libraries. The interviewer is Tom Peters, Director of Library. It was shot in the director’s office at the Rocky Ridge complex. Coday also serves as President of HomePride bank in Mansfield.  Coday is from Ash Grove, Missouri.

Why did the Wilders settle in Mansfield? What happened to bring them specifically to Mansfield?

Mower goes by, watch things like that if you do oral history, it’s OK to cut and come back afterwards

August 22nd 1894 Wilders arrive

Cody never met Wilder, she was in Mansfield to visit her father-in-law before Laura died, but husband did, described about 5 min

How do people in town remember her? As farm woman who lived in community, everyone called her Mrs. Wilder

Saw as another farmer

Conversation from book about how got nicknames

Progressive farmers and laying hens

They’re trying to regrow orchard, have 25 trees, been a lot to take care of, have sketch by Laura showing how they planted them

Almanzo was a deliveryman

Almanzo wrote Fruit Growing Experiment Center, station told him to mix lye with oil to keep it on trees

Why Laura wrote the books

How did the books become famous

Why do people want to visit house

About 18 min They still get letters from children “Dear Laura how are you?” because they see her as a friend

Importance of family and love for each other

Did fame turn Laura’s head

Where original manuscripts are located

Mansfield owns 5 of the original “Little House” manuscripts and original Pioneer Girl

What was Rose’s role in books (on side of editor and book agent only)

Rose built Rock House and Laura and Manly lived there 9 years

Rose bringing electricity to farm, Rose brought out a single line phone, party lines were still the rule for decades after

Rose moved to New York City, Laura and Almanzo moved back to Rocky Ridge

About 25 min Irene Lichty and her role in forming association, Lichty’s father had been a Civil War Solider who married a much younger woman so Litchty’s mother was about Laura’s age. When Laura went to town she visited a couple of friends, including Litchy’s mother and the other aunt Betsy Pringle

Coday arrived in 1960, Litchy asked both Coday and her husband to serve on board

They had the house and 2 1/2 acres to start. Lichty was opening house bringing lunch with her, had bookshelf in bedroom with things to sell, by the time Codays came on realized needed to be more organized, they came 3 years after bought the farm

Litchy was primary guide in early years, board helped her in making repairs on home, reinforced it with cables throughout the upper level, they are shooting in Almanzo’s workshop which was briefly the bookstore and then the director’s office, Garage for cars taken down for museum,

Roger MacBride about 30 min

Both get MacBride’s relationship with Libertarian Party wrong, skates around Ed Friendly and Roger’s connection to show

Touch will controversy including court case on behalf of library, Peters sees in terms of intellectual property, Corday barely touches on it

About 35 minutes – People don’t consider Laura a Missouri author although Laura lived decades here. Twain is even though barely visited as an adult. Laura is a Missouri author by choice.

Laura going back to South Dakota and Rose’s feelings about Mansfield

Current fundraising projects – archives and museum buildings, adding trail

Have chicken coop, garden done by Baker Creek Seeds, hopes to return to original driveway and turn into a 1920s/1930s working farm,

About 42 min – worked on buying back land, now about 180 acres

Didn’t buy additional land until 1990 when bought the Rock House and 50 acres for 100,000. Paid that back and bought place across the way. Last buy was 87 acres that horseshoed around homesite. Still paying that off.

Hoping will increase visitation. Think will add 15% to visitation and hope that will encourage town to create more tourist supported businesses like hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc.

They still have contacts almost every week about someone wanting to do an article.

She re-reads the “Little House” series every year.

“She told a story in a way that is timeless and it was in a way that is so charming and so sweet that everybody feels better after they read them…You just feel like you’re part of the family. That’s how the children who read them or have them read to them feel.”

Note about Civil War women

Oral History

Some good points they demonstrate for oral history:

A good idea with oral history is to be part of a larger project like this one from Missouri State University Libraries. It makes it easier for people to find your efforts and helps guarantee that the work won’t disappear after you die.

Have a list of questions over subjects you think they’ll know about.

Try to make the subject comfortable.

Some points they can work on:

An important part of oral history is also making a transcript. While transcripts don’t always pass on the nuance of a recording, a print version makes it easier to scan to find and search and print formats are usually more stable than those of audio or video. YouTube does do an auto transcript, but I don’t see any attach transcript although they may have one separately.

You control your environment. People are going to be listening to this hopefully for decades. Pay attention to the sound. Get rid of background noises like lawn mowers by requesting they wait or waiting yourself. Have a good quality mic.

Learn more about Oral History:
http://www.trundlebedtales.com/beginning-oral-history.html

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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How Research Works: The Yale Goals Study

The more I work as a reference librarian, the more convinced I am that most people don’t have a good idea in their head about what the process of research looks like. Also, people have trouble telling the difference between something well researched and something not. So from time to time, I like to highlight articles that I’ve come across that do a good job explaining the process the researcher went through to get as close as possible to the truth.

I have previously posted about Clark Gable’s Undershirt and Easter Island.

The Yale Goals Study

Today’s post features an element that drives my friend Nancy Cleaveland crazy, using information because “I read it somewhere.” She even named her sock monkey Iris in honor of this frequent comment.

Oliver Burkeman and the Fast Company noticed that the Yale Goals Study was frequented cited in self-help materials, but that an official academic citation was never used. So they set out to find the study, but couldn’t….

https://www.fastcompany.com/3002763/why-setting-goals-could-wreck-your-life

For a follow up, check out the Yale University’s answer to the question. It also describes its efforts to prove or disprove the theory some of which is used in the article above, so of which isn’t.

What The Story Shows About Research

I especially appreciated:

  1. That they wanted to trace back a source.

This is one of the times when it’s important to back trace a reference. You don’t have to do this for every source you use, but the more you rely on it, the more work you should do tracing it down. References aren’t supposed to be, BUT CAN BE, a bit like playing telephone, especially when a direct quote isn’t used. Having an idea in your head you can easily grab an idea from someone else and cite it in a way they wouldn’t have. A couple of citations down the line and it can be established that someone means something that they never did or weren’t sure about or were postulating as a possibility. Even a quote can be taken out of context to shade its meaning closer to what you want. In this case a study, The Yale Study of Goals, wasn’t academically cited just passed along from one motivational speaker and/or writer to another.

2. Dig

They did a search themselves looking for both the study itself and for instances when the study was cited to trace it back.

3. Contacted Multiple People And/Or Groups

Branches of research and organizations can be very insular. Sometimes people strain to prove things that other people either already have or know about. Before you invest too much work into a topic, ASK! I can think of several times I’ve seen that happen in Laura research alone where someone had done the research and someone else came along and not knowing about the original research re-did the search. That is not always bad, sometimes you can pick up something they missed, but for basic facts it’s often a lot of unnecessary work that can they be applied to fresh subjects instead. Often even if you want to reconfirm the work it might give you locations of collections or information that you might not have thought to check so ask organizations and people first.

Sometimes an organization is just in a better position to search for information than any individual. In this case they turned to the Yale University Archivist who also involved the Yale Alumni Association. The association had access to members contact information which allowed them to quickly survey a good chunk of the class in question. They also were an organization the class members already had a relationship so they were more likely to respond to them. An individual could have done the same thing, but at the cost of a lot more research and likely a lower response rate.

4. And a Problem Analysis

They then took the idea that the non-existent survey was wrong and looked for information to support it. This is the weakest part of the article as they only give one example. Perhaps they offer more in the book? However, a single example, while illustrative, is hardly compelling and even if they didn’t take us through the full explanation of each listing a couple of more examples we could follow up on our own if we wanted to would have strengthened the piece.

Conclusion:

So let me say kudos to them for actually looking at a source and tracking it down. They did what the speakers who were building their careers on motivation should have done themselves. Although proving a negative is very difficult, this seems to pin down fairly conclusively that no such study, at least at that time and place, ever existed. The piece is much weaker in them proving that because the study didn’t exist that it was necessarily wrong in its conclusion. A further exploration of long term studies that DID exist and focused on goals would have had a lot to the strength of the piece.

Bonus: But why 1953?

There probably was a reason the person who told the story originally settled on 1953. However, putting a date on something always makes it seem real. I would bet that whenever it started the 1950s were far enough past that it worked with the story of checking later in life and it was probably in a year that ended with 3. People like round numbers and 30 years, 40 years would make it a nice figure.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

How Historic Research Works: Clark Gable’s Undershirt

The more I work as a reference librarian, the more convinced I am that most people don’t have a good idea in their head about what the process of research looks like. Also, people have trouble telling the difference between something well researched and something not. So from time to time, I like to highlight articles that I’ve come across that do a good job explaining the process the researcher went through to get as close as possible to the truth. I previously posted on a National Geographic Video about Easter Island. Today we look at another great example. I’m especially pleased with because it covers historic clothing which I’m interested in and that this is actually a story I’ve heard, so I’m glad to uncover its story.

http://immortalephemera.com/42243/did-clark-gable-kill-the-undershirt/

I especially appreciated:

1. Pre-Research

Since they were taking on what was a popular story they set out first to document the story. They searched out places it was mentioned and tried to see how far back the story went.

2. Showing Their Work

As far as the research process itself goes, I think it’s great that they don’t just assume you’ll take their word, but actually show what they found. They didn’t just say that the story existed or was popular, but share concrete examples. However, a jeer within a cheer (as TV Guide used to say pre-format swap) that while the entire thing is well within the original intent of fair use, my guess is that with so many different sources and no notice of reprinted with permission, I’m guessing they didn’t get permission from any of them and I don’t think they’re probably within current legal boundaries. So while seeing the stuff is neat, I’d take references (including article titles and pages) to where they were found the examples with quotes so you could look them up yourself if you wanted instead.

3. Expanding Research Looking for Patterns

So rather than just concentrate on the year It Happened One Night came out, it also looked at long term trends; the effect of the Great Depression on underwear sales and the effect of a garment workers strike (impressive digging there).

4. The Dog That Didn’t Bark

As Sherlock Holmes himself pointed out it was important to notice what didn’t happen as what did. The researcher here went looking for articles describing the sudden craze to go without undershirts, complaints or dire reports from the underwear industry, etc. There weren’t any uncovered in the search whose steps are detailed in the report.

5. Where Did It Come From

Even if origin stories are rarely true (in fact the better the story the less likely it is to be true), they usually aren’t created out of whole cloth. There is either a tiny bit of truth or at least a reason why someone would want that to be true. The researcher here tracked that down to the publicity department and documented how to seemingly authoritative sources made the legend take hold.

6. What To Do Next

A good researcher normally has to report before they are quite finished. In this case they give two sources that they want to have checked, but were unable to.

These things are all very nicely done in this post, I hope you can use some of these ideas in your own research.

P.S. If you haven’t seen It Happened One Night – do! Right now! Seriously! It’s my second favorite screwball comedy of all time.

Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.