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Exhibition Themes > New York City History > 52. September 11th Oral History

52.  September 11th 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project. Oral History Research Office

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office [OHRO], in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy [ISERP] at Columbia University, has undertaken a major oral history project on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. More than 300 audiotaped interviews have been conducted with a wide variety of people who were directly and indirectly affected by the catastrophe. Many of the interviews were conducted within six to eight weeks of the attacks, in order to document the uniqueness and diversity of experiences of and responses to the catastrophe as close to the events as possible. Initial funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Columbia University. The early success of the project was also made possible by a concentrated effort of volunteer oral historians, historians, sociologists, journalists and student interviewers.

The objective of the Oral History Memory and Narrative Project is to gather as many different perspectives on the impact of September 11th as possible, by asking individuals to narrate their experiences of the events and their aftermath through the telling of their life stories. The project is designed to return to the same individuals at least twice, over a period of two years, to assess the influences of September 11th on their self-understanding over time. While the nucleus of the project is in New York, an effort has been made to collect life stories around the country, and the scope of the project will expand internationally pending future funding. Interviews have been conducted over a broad spectrum of ethnic and professional categories, and include those who have been discriminated against or lost work in the wake of the events. Through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, clusters of interviews have been conducted with Afghan-American immigrants as well as refugees, Muslims and Sikhs, Latinos, and community and performance artists whose lives and work have been influenced by the September 11th events.

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