Sunday, April 25, 2004

Received a large official-looking package in the mails yesterday ...

from The Bancroft Library of the university. Hadn't gathered in the mail until late this (Sunday) morning. In the large manila mailing packet was a thick transcript -- about one-and-a-half inches thick -- fastened together by a huge black metal clip. There was also a videotape with a label that read:

Betty Reid Soskin
Interviewed November 7 & 11, 2002 by Nadine Wilmot
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library

Recalled then that this was a part of the project the university was conducting for their own purposes and that I'd rather enjoyed the process at the time. Meanwhile -- given my lifestyle -- a lot of life has been lived since two years ago and I'd completely forgotten about it. This was one of several such interviews I've participated in over the past few years. In fact, I didn't realize at the time that they would send a transcript to me at some point. The accompanying letter asked if I would read it and make minor corrections (things that were deemed inaudible or obvious misspellings) but:

"...The transcript is intended to be a reasonable record of the conversations, and for this reason, urge our interviewees not to formalize the transcript as if it were a written autobiography. A few fumbled words, an aside, a lapse in memory--all these serve to remind the reader that this was an informal interview. The informality adds to the readability and liveliness of the transcripts and presents a more human picture of the interviewee than a more formal written document would.

The transcript will be the draft on which we base our final version. If you have any changes, we ask that you notify us within one month of the receipt of this letter. If we do not hear from you by then, we will prepare the final print and web transcript from our draft. We cannot make minor or aesthetic changes to the video, though we could remove sections should you decide they should not be made public."

Final copies of the transcript and video will be deposited in The Bancroft Library, the Richmond Public Library and with the National Park Service...".

Spent the last few hours scanning the transcript and doing the three-hole-punch duties so that the entire document could be placed in a binder for easier access. Can just imagine what a tragedy it would be if I dropped that mess of papers? For some reason they're not numbered.

All-in-all, considering how much life I've lived since "November 7th & 11th of 2002," the entire event had fled from memory. It read well though there were glaring misspellings of names and places. Felt some embarrassment at just how many times I said "yeah" instead of "yes" and made a solemn vow to correct that immediately!

The best thing was that -- though I've yet to watch the video from which the transcript is taken -- I liked that woman. Felt no embarrassment. What a nice surprise, though it shouldn't have been. Learned a long time ago the trick of watching myself being myself and being fairly forgiving in the process. Perfection has never been a goal. Truth, now, is another matter -- and principle -- ad nauseum, as you can see by the events in my recent past.

Decided to spend the next several days resisting the temptation to retype the whole thing (wiping out all those "yeahs"), but will follow the instructions and forego that urge. Will do the corrections they've asked for on their original draft and return it to the Bancroft for the completion of their project.

Also, I'll wait a few days before viewing the video -- for a time when Dorian is away at NIAD and I have the apartment to myself. Not sure just why, but that may be a more penetrating experience. There are about two hours of taping to view -- and that's a huge amount of "Betty" to sit through. May watch it in small pieces over time.

Just recalled that -- at a recent NPS planning session -- a number of historians from the Bancroft were present. I know now why I was greeted in the way that I was, with real deference and warmth. These men were familiar with the contents of this work. They knew all about me before I walked into that room. At the time, I'd totally forgotten about these interviews.

Oh, just remembered that my father's videotaped interviews are tucked away somewhere in my apartment. I have about four hours of his life--done in the early 80s by the Public Health Department at U.C. Berkeley, too. Future genealogists in the family will have a treasure trove of archival material to work with. As one of several family history researchers, I see this as such a gift!