Oral History Collection

Building Bridges Oral & Pictorial History Collection

The Building Bridges Oral & Pictorial History Collection Project embraces the idea that our collective stories – written, verbal and visual – are all intertwined and have inherent value. In the case of Black and minority history, however, that history has too often been relegated to lesser importance in our education systems and mainstream media, difficult to find or is outright missing.

The Building Bridges Project, a collaboration between the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, the newly formed nonprofit Martin County Black Heritage Initiatives and other community partners aims to illuminate Martin County’s rich past by providing continuity to the many oral history projects that have been initiated over the years. 

Through the art of storytelling, we will share the tales of the many black pioneers and others who settled in Martin County and helped shape the community we live in today. These oral narratives will encompass stories of injustice, inequality, struggle and loss as well as tales of freedom and hope, courage and triumph. A collection of these diverse oral histories will be on display and available to the public and will serve as a catalyst for personal and social change.

Our goal is to capture this oral and visual history and curate these pioneer stories before they are lost forever.  Personal stories will also be assembled from people with differing and sometimes polar-opposite backgrounds, cultural and racial differences and will be captured and preserved using inclusive, nonconfrontational and nonjudgmental approaches.

These oral collections will spur conversations and connect people, generating community discussions about ethnicity, class, language, gender, nationality, religion, migration, and cultural heritage.

Our objective is to reduce conflict through the empathy that arises from shared experiences, generating a deeper understanding about racial issues, fostering community and personal transformation.

Preserving oral histories is important because our community is ever evolving. Our hope is to inspire all people who live, work and visit Martin County to embrace positive personal values that will guide their approach to life and relationships to others.  

Contents of the Building Bridges Oral History Project will include but are not limited to:  books, articles and other publications, videos and excerpts of recorded interviews, multimedia exhibits, public reading of interviews and transcripts, presentations and discussions with subject matter experts regarding race relations for change and our local history and culture.

“Oral history provides a fuller, more accurate picture of the past by augmenting the information provided by public records, statistical data, photographs, maps, letters, diaries, and other historical materials. Eyewitnesses to events contribute various viewpoints and perspectives that fill in the gaps in documented history, sometimes correcting or even contradicting the written record. Interviewers are able to ask questions left out of other records and to interview people whose stories have been untold or forgotten. At times, an interview may serve as the only source of information available about a certain place, event, or person.”

- Baylor University Institute for Oral History

Visual History Collection. Collecting and archiving photographs and artifacts is an important task that accompanies oral interviews. Building Bridges Oral History Project will also establish a photographic collection to be exhibited in the future. These photographs will be used to connect us to our past; they will be used to remind us of the people whose oral histories we are capturing. Our collection will resemble a "Community Family Album" with many different branches in the family tree, and each one being significant in telling the broader story.  This perspective gives reason for the collection to encompass a wide variety of visual images from the 19th century to current photographs, along with film and video clips. Subject matter could include: local history, family photos, homes, pastimes, cemeteries, communities, neighborhoods, schools, educators, class photos, property deeds, everyday working people, agriculture, commerce, politics, civil rights, prominent leaders, postcards of Florida attractions and cities.

Building Bridges Oral History Project will follow Oral History Association (OHA) Best Practices Guidelines.