Voices from Princeton and beyond

Detail of the Voices of Princeton banner, showing the Voices of Princeton logo

Everyone has a story to tell. Even if a person sees no great value in their own story or chooses not to share it, the texture of each individual’s life is so rich with experience that before long they have collected memories and personal histories of considerable interest to others. One way the library honors these stories within the community is through Voices of Princeton, an oral history initiative established in partnership with the Historical Society of Princeton, the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, and the Arts Council of Princeton. As it says on the project’s website, “The goal of the project is to collect, share, and archive stories and memories of Princetonians.” Through its efforts, these Princetonians’ stories become part of the historical record and they may be made available in the Historical Society of Princeton’s archives or on the library’s website for the project.

It is worth emphasizing that, for the Voices of Princeton Project, “Princetonians” is understood to mean anyone who has a meaningful connection to the town, whether they happen to live elsewhere now, they only work in Princeton and have never lived here, or they are residing in Princeton for a limited time. The library and its partners on the project welcome anyone who has such a relationship with Princeton to share your story by contacting the project team and scheduling an appointment. The Voices of Princeton Project will also be on-site at Princeton Festival’s Juneteenth celebration to support the “Let Freedom Ring” project, so readers are encouraged to consider sharing their story there as well.

In recent weeks the Voices of Princeton team has been researching other oral history projects throughout the region and the state of New Jersey. Aligned with the goal of sharing stories and memories of Princeton, this research serves to aggregate in one place any projects that place Voices of Princeton stories and memories in relief, so that they can be understood against the background of other oral history projects focused on the Princeton community or on communities that provide perspective on the content of Voices of Princeton interviews. Check out the new “Related Projects” page, recently added to the Voices of Princeton website, to discover twenty-one additional oral history projects that explore the history of Princeton University, Mercer County, or the state of New Jersey.

One project that deserves to be highlighted during Pride month is Princeton University’s Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project. According to the project’s website, “[t]he Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project has been an innovative and important project and repository that originated in the LGBT Center and is now managed by the staff and students in the Gender + Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC). It was launched in the summer of 2017 by former LGBT Center Director Judy Jarvis as a partnership between the LGBT Center, BTGALA/FFR, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies and University Archives, with support from the Provost’s Office’s Princeton Histories Fund. During the summer, undergraduate and graduate students interview LGBTQIA alumni and current and former LGBTQIA staff and faculty to learn about their lives, particularly their experiences being LGBTQIA (out and not out) at Princeton, and their perceptions of the climate for LGBTQIA people at Princeton across time.” The project adds important depth to the history of Princeton University by centering the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA alumni, staff, and faculty. Their history is just as much part of the history of the town as well. A more complete telling of Princeton’s history depends upon these stories for perspectives that might not be otherwise represented in historical narratives.

Readers who are aware of additional projects not listed on our site are encouraged to contact project team members at the Voices of Princeton email address: voices@princetonlibrary.org.

Image credit: Voices of Princeton Project

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