Ever wanted to know what it’s like to live to be 100 and maybe get some tips that could help you get there? It’s all available online at the Oklahoma State University Library, thanks to the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program (OOHRP), which was recently recognized for its “Oklahoma 100 Year Life” oral history project by the national Oral History Association.
The organization has honored OOHRP for the project’s noteworthy scholarly and social value with its Elizabeth B. Mason Major Project Award. The project’s research purpose is to gain insight on the life of citizens who have lived for 100 years or more and increase awareness of their longevity.
“I wanted to know about life at 100, but I also wanted to know about their childhood because that tells us a lot about living in Oklahoma at the time,” said Dr. Tanya Finchum, library professor, who led the oral history project with Dr. Alex Bishop, associate professor of human development and family sciences in the College of Human Sciences at OSU.
Over the course of three years, the team interviewed 111 Oklahoma centenarians. Interview transcripts, recordings and photos are now freely available online at library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/digital/100/.
Students and faculty are using both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze the data collected. The information gathered from the “Oklahoma 100 Year Life” project also inspired a theatrical production, “The Centenarian Play,” written by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder of the OOHRP.
The play was used in Bishop’s classroom to help students better understand the aging process and develop empathy for older people. Following the success of the in-class exercise, the research team received a grant to present the play publicly with professional actors. At the performances, pre- and post-surveys were collected to measure how the experience impacted audience members’ perceptions of aging.
The “Oklahoma 100 Year Life” oral history project and the efforts that build on it advance OSU’s land-grant mission by improving the lives of Oklahomans and people all over the world through integrated teaching, research and outreach.
Formally established in 2007, the OOHRP at the OSU Library has collected and preserved firsthand accounts from individuals who have played a part in Oklahoma’s history. The Program explores the lives and contributions of Oklahomans from all walks of life. To learn more about the OOHRP call 405-744-7685, email email@example.com, or visit www.library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/.
By Chrishayla Smith