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Montclair History Center’s Many Voices of Montclair Oral History Project Kicks Off

Lacordaire Graduation Party. May 1949. Credit- Frank Brown, Montclair Public Library Local History Collection
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In honor of the 150th anniversary of Montclair, the Montclair History Center is excited to announce the Many Voices of Montclair oral history project. Thanks to funding from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in March and April, they will be conducting oral histories from people who grew up in Montclair and/or lived here prior to 1960. The goal is to record the stories of people who grew up in Montclair in a wide variety of neighborhoods and decades, creating a multifaceted snapshot of Montclair in the early to mid 20th century.

The Montclair History Center is organizing three events where people can come to be interviewed to share their stories. The events will be held on Friday, March 23 at the Montclair Fire Department Community Room (1 Pine Street) from 11 am to 2 pm; Friday, April 6 at First House (56 Walnut Street) from 1 to 4 pm; and Saturday, April 21 at the Montclair Fire Department Community Room (1 Pine Street) from 11 am to 2 pm.

Says Executive Director Jane Eliasof, “We are reaching out to community organizations and inviting them to identify the ‘elders’ who carry the history of the community.” In addition, people are invited to reach out to the Montclair History Center on their own (973-744-1796 or mail@montclairhistorical.org) if they lived in Montclair in the first half of the 20th century or for more than 50 years.

The Montclair History Center is working with Montclair resident and Professor Chris Matthews from Montclair State University. Professor’s Matthews’ class will be trained on the art of conducting oral histories, principles, and best practices, and will help with the project.

“Part of our mission is to share the stories of the people who have made Montclair what it is today,” says Eliasof. “This project brings that part of mission to life.”

Once the oral histories are complete, they will be transcribed so they are easily searchable. They will housed in the Montclair History Center’s archives and perhaps StoryCorps or the New Jersey Digital Highway. Once the oral histories are complete, the Montclair History Center will look for ways to compile and make them available to the public, such as programs, walking tours, exhibits, and/or podcasts.

If you are -- or know someone who might be -- a candidate for the Many Voices of Montclair project, please reach out to the Montclair History Center at 973-744-1796 or mail@montclairhistorical.org.

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