We Are Pittsfield: Oral History Project in the Berkshires

Pittsfield Debuts “We Are Pittsfield” Oral History Project

There are thousands of stories in a community two hundred and fifty years old, and the City of Pittsfield aims to collect as many as possible this year through an oral history project called We Are Pittsfield. The We Are Pittsfield project is designed to capture & retell Pittsfield’s past and present for future generations, told by those who live in, visit, and love the city. We Are Pittsfield will create an archive of stories and memories about Pittsfield on a dedicated website, located at www.WeArePittsfield.com, as well as being stored at the Berkshire Athenaeum’s Local History Room.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our city than through the shared memories of our community members,” says Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.  “The stories we collect through We Are Pittsfield will provide future generations with an extraordinary window into the beloved people and places of Pittsfield.”

The We Are Pittsfield oral history project is funded through a grant from the Pittsfield Cultural Council, and is part of the Pittsfield Panorama project, using arts and culture to celebrate Pittsfield 250th anniversary in 2011. The city of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development is providing staff support.

Andy Kelly and Sue Kelly are co-chairs and co-founders of We Are Pittsfield. “We were inspired by other communities that have organized oral history projects and felt that this was the perfect time to do it in Pittsfield, as we celebrate our 250th anniversary,” says Andy Kelly. “As a Pittsfield native, I know there are so many great stories out there, and we want to share them!” Sue Kelly adds, “It’s important to us that all voice be heard, including youth, immigrants, and elders, in order to provide the fullest and most accurate portrait of our city.”

Pittsfield residents and neighbors can share their stories and memories about Pittsfield either in written form or by nominating themselves or someone else to be interviewed on camera. You can submit a written account of your Pittsfield memory, short or long, on the We Are Pittsfield website. With your permission, the story will be posted on the website, and can also remain anonymous. In addition, you can, via the website, phone, or by letter, nominate yourself or someone you know to be interviewed on camera.

We Are Pittsfield is looking for a wide range of stories: from personal accounts of historical events to familial tales passed from one generation to the next; from stories of struggles and victories to fun recollections of memorable days and nights in Pittsfield. Storytellers do not have to live in Pittsfield, but the story must involve the city. The videos will range from short, one- to two-minute clips, to lengthier, more researched stories about Pittsfield’s past.

Project Manager and AmeriCorps VISTA Jennibeth Gomez will provide much of the technical production work, from filming to editing, with help from volunteers and Pittsfield Community Television. The oral history videos will be shown on PCTV, available for viewing on the WeArePitsfield.com website, and will be archived at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Volunteers to help with the video recording and interviewing of Pittsfield residents are welcomed and encouraged. A free video production class for prospective We Are Pittsfield volunteers will be held Monday, June 6 at 5pm at Pittsfield Community Television studios, located at 4 Federico Drive in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Space is limited, reserve yours by contacting Jennibeth Gomez at jgomez@pittsfieldch.com or 413.499.9348.

Those wishing to tell their story can submit through the website, WeArePitsfield.com, submit through email, wearepittsfield@gmail.com, or leave a message on the We Are Pittsfield voicemail, 413-242-6363.  In addition, We Are Pittsfield submission forms will be available at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, located at 28 Renne Avenue, the Berkshire Athenaeum, located at One Wendell Avenue, and at Pittsfield City Hall, located at 70 Allen Street.

(Submitted by Cultural Pittsfield)

One Comment on “We Are Pittsfield: Oral History Project in the Berkshires

  1. What a great project! I have participated in a much smaller, but similar, project in Hatfield, Mass, also funded by our local Massachusetts Cultural Council, called “Hatfield Stories.” It is so important to save these stories for future generations — already a few of the seniors I interviewed the first year have passed on. I think what’s an improvement from the past is that many more oral history programs, like “We Are Pittsfield” and “Hatfied Stories” are making the recordings easily accessible to the public so the stories can be heard, and perhaps responded to. So often in the past the tapes or transcriptions just went into a drawer in a research library. Get the stories out there!
    –Kathie Gow

    Oral History Producer

    Curator, Hatfield Historical Museum

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