Oral histories bring past to life

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Some of the richest history of The Salvation Army is held in the vivid memories of retired officers and long-time soldiers, advisory board members and friends. Now a wealth of personal recollections and stories of past events are coming alive through a new oral history project launched in January 2004 by the Museum of the West at Crestmont College.

“The Museum has undertaken the task of completing 200 oral histories by early 2005, and we’re halfway there,” said Museum Director Captain Kevin Jackson. “These valuable resources, most completed by our BA degree students, will help us write the new history of The Salvation Army in the American West, a current Museum project. The archived histories will contribute to the development of new Museum exhibits and future research.”

Oral history—the gathering and preserving of historical information with recorded interviews—is the oldest type of historical inquiry and is increasingly popular today. According to Jackson, 85 Crestmont cadets and continuing education students have participated in this quest for Salvationists to better understand their past, and most have found the experience rewarding and enlightening.

Among them was BA degree candidate Major Nila Fankhauser, corps officer in Juneau, Alaska. “I was blessed to write the oral history for Major Dolores Rivitt, a colorful lady with so much to tell,” said Fankhauser. “With only 25 pages I had to leave some details out, but I enjoyed it so much I plan to do a more extensive project later.”

For information, contact kevin_jackson@usw.salvationarmy.org or (310) 265-6241.

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