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Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: R0014-BNHP

Scope and Contents Note

The Baltimore Neighborhoods Heritage Project (BNHP) collection contains oral history interview audiocassette recordings and interview transcripts and textual records created during 232 oral history interviews conducted during the Project between 1978 and 1981. The interviews were conducted with the communities in seven of Baltimore City’s older neighborhoods including Highlandtown, Hampden, Park Heights, Little Italy, South Baltimore, Old West Baltimore, and East Baltimore. Oral history interviews were also conducted to document the history of workers in and around the Port of Baltimore. This collection also contains photographs and ephemera originally collected as a part of BNHP.

The first eight series of the collection contain the oral history interview textual records, transcripts, and audio recordings organized by neighborhood or location in Baltimore. The interview textual records and transcripts for interviews include biographical notes and background information about the interviewee and other administrative notes related to the BNHP project. The accompanying tape indexes include the name of the interviewee, the name of the interviewer, the length of the interview and number of tapes, and the main topics discussed during the interview. The interview transcripts document the recorded interviews. Topics discussed during interviews include: immigration and adjustment to life in Baltimore, residential patterns, neighborhood institutions, work experiences, family and social life, housing conditions, the impact of local and national events on the neighborhood, and perceived changes in the neighborhood over time.

Interviews were conducted by members of the Project staff teams made up of professional and academic historians, graduate student assistants, and community historians. Each Project interviewer was trained to conduct oral history interviews and worked with academic historians throughout the project. Interviews were preceded by pre-interview conversations between interviewee and interviewer to establish rapport and a basic outline for each interview. Many interviews are one-on-one, however group interviews with multiple interviewers and/or multiple interviewees are also present.

The last series in the collection, Photographs, contains photographs, copies, and materials documenting neighborhoods and communities that were also collected from community participants and other sources by BNHP.

Dates

  • 1978-1981

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access to the Baltimore Neighborhoods Heritage Project materials is available in collaboration through Special Collections and Archives and the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

The majority of the textual records and interview transcripts and the audio recordings of the oral history interviews in the collection have been digitized and made available online through this finding aid.

The Photographs series contains materials collected by BNHP from project participants, local institutions, and other sources.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research. Gloves are recommended when handling photographic material.

Historical Note

The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) was a community history project created by the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Regional Institutional Studies Center (BRISC). William Theodore Durr, former head of BRISC at UB, was the director of BNHP. BNHP participants and partners included academic and community historians, community members, activists, and Baltimore City agency personnel. The locally and nationally supported project was sponsored by the University of Baltimore and funded by the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs, the Maryland Committee for the Humanities, the Mayor's Office of Manpower Resources, and the National Endowment for the Humanities among others. The goal of the project was for historians and community members to partner in order to document and connect communities of several older Baltimore neighborhoods with their local social history through various mediums. The project produced an oral histories collection, a photographic collection, a theatrical production, and a traveling museum.

From 1978 through 1981, the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) recorded and collected oral histories from over 200 longtime residents of seven Baltimore neighborhoods -- Highlandtown, Hampden, Park Heights, Little Italy, South Baltimore, Old West Baltimore, and East Baltimore--and with workers in and around the Port of Baltimore. These oral histories attempted to uncover information about select aspects of neighborhood life and the experience of neighborhood residents from the perspective of the residents themselves. Topics include: immigration and adjustment to life in Baltimore, residential patterns, neighborhood institutions, work experiences, family and social life, housing conditions, the impact of local and national events on the neighborhood, and perceived changes in the neighborhood over time.

Many of the oral history interviews were conducted by BNHP staff at the “Eating Together” city program, a series of lunch events for seniors in and nearby the selected neighborhoods. The BNHP interviewers were “based” at neighborhood “Eating Together” sites, where they met residents and learned about the neighborhood and the community’s cultural and social identity. Each neighborhood BNHP staff team consisted of professional historians, graduate student assistants, and community historians. Oral history interviews were collected by project staff during their one-year involvement in the social and institutional life of the neighborhood, as they aimed to uncover and promote its history. BNHP staff were also encouraged to interview other community members not affiliated with the “Eating Together” program such as local business, political, or religious leaders.

BNHP project staff were trained to conduct oral history interviews and worked with academic historians throughout the project. Before each interview, interviewers and interviewees had pre-interview conversations in order to establish rapport and an outline for the interviews. Project historians used the oral materials produced during the interviews and other written sources to write neighborhood histories. Historians also helped by directing interviewers to relevant areas of inquiry to pursue in interviews. In addition to conducting oral history interviews, project staff sponsored and organized history-related activities in each community. These activities included film showings, sing-a-longs, and tours of neighborhood landmarks. The goal of these activities was to stimulate interest in local history topics that were pursued in the interviews.

BNHP also documented community histories through photographs and by collecting artifacts from the participants and the neighborhoods. Additionally, they created a traveling exhibit, performed a theatrical play, and published a book of photographs and quotations from interview transcripts. The traveling exhibit titled “Baltimore People, Baltimore Places” was exhibited around the city and the book also titled “Baltimore People, Baltimore Places” was published by the University of Baltimore in 1980. The theatrical play, “Baltimore Voices,” was based on the oral histories and was performed in 1980s in Baltimore neighborhoods. Several of the neighborhood histories written by BNHP staff for the project were published in the spring 1982 issue of the Maryland Historical Magazine. Though BNHP was originally planned to be a long-term program, it concluded in 1982.

In 1986, Oral Historian Linda Shopes, a BNHP partner, reflected upon and critiqued the project in her essay, “Oral History and Community Involvement: The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project” for the anthology, “Presenting the Past: Essays on History and the Public.”

The Maryland Center for History and Culture, which also holds a materials from BNHP, published a description of their collection and the project written by Damon Talbot in the winter 2011 issue of the Maryland Historical Magazine. Additionally, the Maryland Center for History and Culture’s finding aid for their collection also provides information about the project.

[This historical note was revised using information from previous collection descriptions, and additional information was collected from Shopes’ essay, “Oral History and Community Involvement: The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project,” Damon Talbot's overview of BNHP in the MDHS Magazine, a 1982 Baltimore Sun newspaper article, and other BNHP project descriptions.]

Extent

57 Linear Feet

Abstract

From 1978 through 1981, the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project (BNHP) recorded and collected oral histories from longtime residents of seven Baltimore neighborhoods -- Highlandtown, Hampden, Park Heights, Little Italy, South Baltimore, Old West Baltimore, and East Baltimore--and with workers in and around the Port of Baltimore. These oral histories attempted to uncover information about select aspects of neighborhood life and the experience of neighborhood residents from the perspective of the residents themselves. Topics include: immigration and adjustment to life in Baltimore, residential patterns, neighborhood institutions, work experiences, family and social life, housing conditions, the impact of local and national events on the neighborhood, and perceived changes in the neighborhood over time.

Arrangement

Collection is organized into nine series. The first eight series are arranged by the Baltimore neighborhood or location where the oral history interviews were conducted. The oral histories are mainly arranged alphabetically by interviewee surname in Series 1-8.

  • Series 1: Highlandtown
  • Series 2: Hampden
  • Series 3: Park Heights
  • Series 4: Little Italy
  • Series 5: South Baltimore
  • Series 6: Old West Baltimore
  • Series 7: East Baltimore
  • Series 8: Working Baltimore
  • Series 9: Photographs

Custodial History

This collection was originally part of the Baltimore Regional Institutional Studies Center (BRISC) at the University of Baltimore. Baltimore Neighborhood History Project (BNHP) tapes, transcripts, and other BNHP program materials are held at University of Baltimore Special Collections and Archives and the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

Accessing Digital Copies

Digital versions of many of the oral history interviews and related documents in this collection are available online through this finding aid. Locate records by using the "Print" button above, or browse records in “Collection Organization." Records with associated digital objects are identified with a red Digital Object icon.

Related Materials

The Maryland Center for History and Culture also holds materials from BNHP in the collection: Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project Oral History Collection, 1978-1980, OH 8297.

Related materials at Special Collections and Archives include the Baltimore Voices Company Records, 1977-1982, R0020-BVC.

Processing Information

Collection originally processed by BRISC staff prior to 1984. Text files digitized by Thomas Hollwak and audio cassette tapes digitized by Aiden Faust, 2010-2011. Digital materials migrated in 2016 and republished online in 2019 by Fatemeh Rezaei.

Two interviews are inelligible for transcription due to audio quality: Interviews #66 and #234. Five interviews could not be digitized due to physical degredation: Interviews #12, #118, #141, #179, and #185.

The Photographs series is currently unprocessed.

Title
Finding aid for the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project
Author
Finding aid created by Special Collections and Archives staff. Revised by Aiden Faust (2011). Revised by Fatemeh Rezaei (2016, 2019). Revised by Laura Bell (2020).
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives Repository

Contact:
H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, Room 104
1415 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore Maryland 21201 USA
410-837-4253