Making Oral History Relevant: The Legacy Project

The Legacy Project began in 2004 with Karl Pillemer Professor at Cornell University.  Pillemer began by collecting ‘practical’ advice from elderly people in America by having them answer “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”  This initiative resulted in over 1500 people over 70 years old describing their personal life lessons and experiences.

The main portion of Legacy Project site is a ‘browse by life lesson type’ section.  This portion of the site includes textual transcripts of elders descriptions of important lessons.  The Legacy Project also has a YouTube channel where video versions of the talks with some the elders interviewed can be watched.  I wish the site included more video or audio content, reading the transcripts is interesting but doesn’t provide the same dimension as video.

What initially drew me to this project was no where in it does Karl Pillemer discuss the fact that he is essentially undertaking an oral history project.  Pillmer focused more on the present day applications of the knowledge provided by the interviewed persons.  The appeal from a historical stand point of these  modern day applications of oral history is that they have the potential to almost ‘trick’ the general public into take a glimpse into the past.