Sady Sullivan
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About

Sady Sullivan is an oral historian with over a decade’s worth of experience building community-engaging oral history projects, revitalizing interest in legacy oral history collections, and establishing digital strategies for oral history archives as an outreach tool for libraries, museums, and movement building.

Oral history interviews that Sady collected have been used as primary sources for K-12 curricula, walking tours, podcasts, books, including Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, and public history exhibitions at Brooklyn Historical Society, New-York Historical Society, El Museo del Barrio, and Brooklyn Navy Yard BLDG92.

Sady was Curator for the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives at Columbia University, 2014-2016; and Director of Oral History at Brooklyn Historical Society, 2006 - 2014. Sady also worked in radio, both pre- and post- podcast era, and Chuck D once said she did a good job on the 1s and 2s. Sady is a certified yoga teacher and she is currently studying sound healing and pursuing a certificate in Deep Listening.

Sady revitalized a dormant oral history program at Brooklyn Historical Society, promoting access to ground-breaking collections created in the 1970s and 1980s. She established collections and usage policies which are still in use today. Also at Brooklyn Historical Society, Sady created Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (2011-2015), an award-winning oral history project, racial justice dialogue series, and digital humanities site exploring mixed-heritage identity.

Sady writes about this project in "Public Homeplaces: Collaboration and Care in Oral History Project Design," a chapter in the collection Beyond Women’s Words: Feminisms and the Practices of Oral History in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge 2018).

Her guide to oral history and community engagement, “If You’re Thinking about Starting an Oral History Project,” is included in The City Amplified: Oral Histories and Radical Archives (The Center for the Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center, 2019).

Sady has taught oral history workshops, as well as semester-long courses, at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY; The Laundromat Project; The New School; Columbia University; Brooklyn College; Yale University; LIU Brooklyn; Weeksville Heritage Center; Brown University; NYU; Recess Art; and Oral History Summer School.

In addition, Sady is an active member of the Oral History Association, most recently serving on the task force that revised the OHA Principles and Best Practices (2018). Sady also served on Groundswell's founding Core Working Group, 2011-2013.

Sady’s work is influenced by the Buddhist practice of deep listening, and formative experiences at three feminist institutions: The Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies, Babeland, and Wellesley Centers for Women. Sady received a Master’s in Cultural Reporting & Criticism from New York University, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Wellesley College.


Services

Sady Sullivan consults on both small and large oral history projects. She advises on project design, public programming, and digital strategies for oral history archives. Sady also teaches individualized workshops on interviewing skills and oral history project management.

Sady Sullivan is also available for a few individual / family oral history interviews per year.

Current Workshops:

Oral History Listening Skills I

Designed for an interdisciplinary group with a range of prior experiences with oral history, this workshop will provide you with practical tips for conducting good oral history interviews. Through interactive exercises, we will consider the strengths and challenges of a life-history approach, and how to research and develop interview guides. We will practice deep listening, drawing from the Buddhist practice, and discuss navigating interpersonal dynamics between interviewer and narrator. We will consider the impact of listening and being heard, and how to design projects to best honor that shared experience. Lastly, we will share tips and tools for keeping an oral history project organized, and discuss how to ethically consider issues of privacy, preservation, and access.

Oral History Listening Skills II

Designed for an interdisciplinary group with some oral history or other interviewing experience: Through shared experiences such as Deep Listening (both Buddhist and in the spirit of Pauline Oliveros) and sound therapy exercises, we will strengthen our intuitive listening skills. We will consider the impact of listening and being heard, and how to design oral history/storytelling projects to best honor that shared experience. We will focus on oral history as a tool for exploring the dynamic relationships of identity, voice, embodied knowledge, belonging, and becoming. We will experience how listening with compassion can provide healing. We will reflect on self-care, care for our narrators/interviewees, and the role that sharing life histories plays in caring for our future.

Archiving Oral Histories

Designed for non-archivists, this workshop provides an introduction to oral history archiving for teachers, activists, family historians, artists, and others who wish to preserve their interviews. Archives are where societal memory is preserved for generations to come. Archives can also be hubs for community engagement. In this workshop, we will discuss how to ensure that the interviews you collect today will be available in 5, 25, 150+ years. Participants will learn best practices for storing both born-digital and analog collections; tips and tools for keeping a project organized; why “metadata is a love note to the future”; and what to consider when donating a collection to an archival repository. We will explore open source digital tools for building online archives such as Omeka and OHMS, and discuss how to ethically consider issues of privacy as well as how critical librarianship brings social justice principles into the work of libraries and archives.

Past Workshops:

Listening to Women and Nonbinary People

This seminar introduces the practice of Oral History as an historical methodology, a unique narrative genre, and a tool in the reconciliation of social injustices. It is interdisciplinary, drawing from history, sociology, memoir, and gender studies. We examine oral history in all its forms — audio, video, print, and exhibit — and in a variety of settings — museums, schools, archives, performance, radio, and online. In particular, we consider the dynamics of listening to, recognizing, and validating the voices of women and nonbinary people, who may not know/believe that their stories have an audience. In addition to learning the theory and background of oral history, students learn the practical and technical information needed to conduct their own interviews.

The Impact of Listening and Being Heard

Using the lens of radical empathy to deepen our oral history practice.

With our eyes on the prize of a more equitable and peaceful future, we focus on oral history as a tool for exploring the dynamic relationships of identity, voice, embodied knowledge, belonging, and becoming.

This workshop is useful to people at all levels of experience with oral history who want to consider: why we engage in oral history work; why we believe that preserving these stories for the future is important; and how our blind spots and biases may impact our approach. We will experience how listening with compassion can provide healing. We think critically about how we use and interpret oral history interviews and the impact this has on individuals, communities, creativity, scholarship, and our understanding of our past, present, and future. We reflect on self-care, care for our narrators/interviewees, and the role that sharing life histories plays in caring for our future.

We find influences and inspirations from the fields of oral history, public history, archival theory, feminist psychology, social justice organizing, racial justice educating, performance art, visionary/science fiction, and the collective knowledge from within our group. Through shared experiences such as Deep Listening (both Buddhist and in the spirit of Pauline Oliveros) and sound therapy exercises, we strengthen our intuitive listening skills and explore collective (un)consciousness.

Prior experience with oral history is useful but not necessary. This workshop is responsive and adaptive to the interests of the group and we can cover the practical nuts and bolts of conducting digital audio/video oral history interviews, as well as designing an oral history project.