Oral History Project

Mass Humanities Oral History Grant

In March, Mass Humanities awarded the Cambridge Historical Society $7,500 to conduct an oral history project. “Sweet Souls, Voices from the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House in Cambridge” will gather the personal stories and experiences of twelve people affiliated with the 112-year-old settlement house in the Port. Interviews will be conducted by Katie Burke and Lina Raciukaitis, under the guidance of oral historians Jane Becker and Diana Lempel. Recordings will be done by trainees from Loop Lab, a non-profit doing workforce development for young adults from the Port.

“Sweet Souls” will examine the impact of one of the U.S.’s oldest settlement houses on individual and neighborhood life over fifty years by collecting under-documented narratives of people whose lives have intersected with Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) service and activism. Through interviews and interpretation, we will reflect on what MFNH’s history teaches us about supporting and empowering people and neighborhoods facing significant challenges. A free and public roundtable discussion about the project will be held this fall. Audio and transcripts of the interviews will be available on the Society’s website after the project is completed in early 2020.

“Sweet Souls” builds off of the last oral history project, “Caribbean Heritage in Cambridge.” In 2018, the Society collected interviews of nine Cambridge people who were born or have roots in the Caribbean as part of our year of asking “Where is Cambridge From?” Areas of ancestry included Barbados (1), Haiti (4), Jamaica (1), Puerto Rico (1), Suriname (1), and Trinidad (1), and also “from Cambridge.” Their ages range from 20s to 70s, with memories of Cambridge that reach back to the 1950s and up to the present.

The 2018 oral histories can be accessed on the Society’s website here.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Read the press release here.