by Elizabeth Wright
What is Oral History?
Oral History is one of many tools used in compiling the history of a place, person, thing, or entity. It is a tape recorded interview which allows the person being interviewed to record personal recollections of his or her esperiences relating to whatever the subject of the historical research is. In this case, we are compiling the history of Russian Hill throught the eyes of people who have lived here for a long time. Oral interviews provide anecdotal information that is not contained in formal publications.
Why Do We Need a History of Russian Hill?
The answer is that history unrecorded is a treasure tht is lost forever. History gives us our identity, out sense of place, our sense of change over time, our sense of roots.
We are fairly familiar with the stories of well-known people who have resided on Russian Hill at one time or another. But there is an entire treasure trove of history to be gleaned from the ordinary, everyday citizens who call Russian Hill their home. These are the people who live and work on Russian Hill; who frequent the grocery stores, the dry cleaners, the drugstores, the restaurants and the small businesses that make up this community. They see the ethnic and cultural diversity of the community and know how it has changed over the years. Learning about these changes, enables Russian Hill Neighbors to better meet the needs of the community.
Our libraries are full of histories of the City of San Francisco, but are woefully lacking on neighborhood histories …and the neighborhoods are where history happens just as surely as it happens at City Hall. This oral history project could provide a model to be used by other neighborhoods in the City.
And, last, but not least, the project is fascinating, enjoyable, and promotes a sense of community by getting people to talk to one another.