On Saturday December 5th, we hosted a screening of new multimedia oral histories on Vanport, produced by University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication Master’s Program students, and by our volunteers. Around 200 people gathered to learn more about this forgotten piece of history from the voices of those who witnessed it.

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For all of us involved in the Vanport Mosaic, one of our most cherished aspects of the project is seeing the former Vanport residents who attend and enjoy our public events; many of the people we are working to honor tell us how special it makes them feel to see their stories, and to be recognized. We tell these stories WITH them, not about them. How they feel about the way their experience is represented is what fuels this project.

Mrs. Carolyn Hinton worked with Rachel Bracker and Tiara Dornell to record her fond memories of her childhood in Vanport after moving there from Arkansas. After the screening of her multimedia oral history she wrote us this kind note: “A very enjoyable production that brought back so many memories. I am in awe of how well done the film is. Everything seems to match up so well.”

To tell a story in such a collaborative and inclusive way takes months, even though what you end up seeing is a 5-7 minute long video. From an hour-long interview, (sometimes with multiple sessions, if we feel we missed something important), to transcribing, to brainstorming which pieces of the interview(s) will best convey the story each survivor wants to share, to finding the right archival photos to enhance the narrative…

It is all worth it. Watch Mrs. Carolyn Hinton’s story, and you will agree.

To “match up so well” Rachel worked on it until the night before the screening. "Mrs. Hinton had a lot of old photos of Vanport," she told us, "but I didn't even think of ask her of she still had photos of Arkansas, where she was born. She only lived there a few years, and I remembered her telling me that most of her photos were lost in the flood. I spent hours looking for archival photos in library databases, but I wasn't sure whether the photos I found there accurately portrayed her childhood surrounding. "It took Rachel a phone call to Mrs. Hinton to solve the problem. Sure enough she did have photos of her life in Arkansas, and Rachel was able to rush to her home with a scanner and add the accurate images to the video, just on time for the screening.

You might wonder what motivates our volunteer to dedicate so much time and care throughout this process. Stories told this way, WITH and not "about", are gift for those who tell them and those who receive them. Tiara, who interviewed Mrs. Hinton with Rachel, shared with us that "working on Ms. Hinton's story in the context of this larger Vanport project has meant so much to me as an African American woman, and as a new Oregonian."

If I didn’t scare you off and you are interested in learning this process, sign up for our FREE WORKSHOP (dates TBA).