Oral History Program

Organization Associated with Program
Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks- Senior Citizens Division
116 West University Pkwy. P.3
Baltimore, Maryland 21210

The Oral History Program, an initiative of Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium based in Baltimore, Maryland, gives older adults a platform to speak for themselves and brings people together from across the city to talk about their lives. Older people participate in writing classes led by a professional teaching artist, where they have the opportunity to write, discuss, rehearse, and perform their unique stories. This allows them to learn about oral history and how to conduct a high-quality oral history project, as well as to find out more about their community. The classes also encourage social engagement and relationship-building through the sharing of stories.

Performances conducted through the Oral History Program span a wide variety of subject matters, including the experiences of refugees after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the role that Baltimore’s segregated Druid Park played for African Americans in the 1940s, and the struggles of Jewish immigrants in establishing themselves after they arrived on American shores. Diverse media is used by participants to enhance the performance of oral history, including live theatrical performance, digital audio recordings, photographs, video, PowerPoint presentations, drawing and artwork, and more.

Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium conducts this program in partnership with community stakeholders such as local museums, theaters, and universities, the Baltimore City Department of Recreations and Parks, and community libraries. Performances have been conducted at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Columbia University, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The Oral History Program has been featured on local television and public radio.

Program History

Established in 1994, Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium is a professional theatre, entertainment, and educational organization that provides the Baltimore community with comprehensive theatre arts production services including museum theatre, living history, oral history performance, plays, musicals, and educational programs. The organization also offers “playshops” for museums, historical societies, theatres, educational and arts institutions, conferences, attractions, and special events. The Oral History Program was launched in 2005. Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium is a subsidiary of the Communications Health Network, Inc.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Participants fill out surveys at the end of the session to provide feedback that is used to improve the next session.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

People have amazing stories to share, and you should incorporate them into your art-making process.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Arts Discipline: Music, Musical Theater, Theater
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Education (e.g. School / University), Library
Program Service Area: Rural, Suburban, Urban, Virtual
Type of Practice: Promising Practices