At an open house event in Jefferson Hall Friday, “Reflections: Oral History at U.Va.” officially celebrated the launch of its website by inviting the public to visit the website and engage with members of the student team running the project. The “Reflections” project works to collect oral interviews from members of the University and Charlottesville community to uncover and preserve a more personal history of the University.
The website allows viewers to express interest in sharing their story or recommend others for interviews. Currently, the website featured nine interviews with alumni. The interviews feature photographs as well as audio from the Reflections at U.Va. SoundCloud.
Many of the interviews go over pieces of U.Va. history that might have otherwise been lost. Among the stories included are accounts of the “black bus stop,” where African-American students gathered to meet up with their friend, as told by alumna Marva Jo Camp, and details of a failed University Guide Service initiation in 1986 that resulted in 23 members of the group being arrested, told by Frank Golding.
The most recently-conducted interview was done Oct. 1 between second-year College student Logan Botts and alumnus Jacob Roundtree. Roundtree describes how he came to feel at home at the University, despite the racial tensions surrounding integration throughout the country in the 1960s.
“I felt in a sense, that I belonged,” Roundtree says in the interview, noting the support he felt as one of the University’s first black undergraduate students.
Botts is one of the students leading the project. Botts worked to contact other colleges engaging in similar projects, such as the College of William and Mary, to set standards for “Reflections.”
“Our emphasis is really looking to find those who have undertold, overlooked narratives and make sure that they feel that their stories can be included in U.Va. history,” Botts said.
Botts explained that the project began as part of the University's Bicentennial celebration in 2017.
“It started with identifying student interviewers in the U.Va. community to conduct interviews during Alumni Weekend, Darden reunions and various kinds of alumni events,” Botts said.
Since then, the project has expanded. In the fall of 2019, fourth-year College student Kayla Dunn joined “Reflections” to focus on the history of Hispanic and Latinx students and faculty at the University.
According to Dunn’s presentation at the event, she hopes “to begin creating a narrative for the Hispanic/Latinx student experience at U.Va.”
Botts hopes that as the project grows, other students will join and pursue their specific interests.
“As we grow and expand and incorporate additional fellows, we really want to give students the opportunity to explore any personal passions that they might have, no matter what kind of community that falls under,” Botts said.
Many groups on-Grounds worked to make the project successful, including the Alumni Association, WTJU Radio, Special Collections and University Communications.
“We've gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback. It's been a great experience for not just the students but also the alumni who had really high reviews of that experience,” Dunn said.