The Bard Graduate Center officially launched the Craft, Art & Design Oral History Project today in a small-but-lovely lunchtime ceremony in the penthouse of the BGC's Upper West Side building. Dean Peter Miller kicked off the event, but quickly turned to floor over to the project's inimitable organizer, Assistant Professor Catherine Whalen. Catherine has worked tremendously hard, in concert with Kimon Keramidas (director of the BGC's Digital Media Lab) and several student assistants, to prepare the backlog of lengthy interviews to go live on the website, and the amount of collaborative labor embodied in the project is impressive.
I was pleasantly surprised to see in attendance a number of other BGC alumni who'd contributed interviews, and was glad that my own interviewee, Paul J. Smith (the Director Emeritus of the Museum of Arts & Design, which was known under his tenure first as the Museum of Contemporary Craft and later the American Craft Museum before its name-change to MAD in 2008) was also there. Kimon and Paul both briefly addressed the small gathering of faculty, current students, and alumni, before Catherine declare the website officially open and invited us to peruse it at our will on the laptops and iPads the DML had lent to the occasion.
Personally, it's enormously gratifying to see the site up and running--not only is the site beautifully designed, but it gives such a wonderfully accessible presence to a category of primary material (the oral history interview) that's usually unassuming at best, and impossible to access at worst. Having on occasion myself been frustrated by how difficult it can be to get ahold of such rich material for research, I hope the BGC Oral History Project can serve as a model for other institutions considering the (unenviably large, I have to admit) task of digitizing and making available their own oral history archives.