Overview: We of Questa Stories, (Gaea McGahee and Claire Coté with four-month old Olivia June in tow) met with Kate Cisneros in her home around her kitchen table on June 14, 2018. This was our third individual interview and we were prepared to record for about an hour. It was also part of our first “concrete” efforts to create content for the Questa Stories project and archive, and to launch QuestaStories.org. To better prepare ourselves as stewards of the newly formed Questa Stories project and website, we took an online oral history workshop from Baylor University, (https://www.baylor.edu/oralhistory/index.php?id=931747) early in 2018, which provided some helpful tools and techniques, and alerted us to oral history legal considerations and best practices. (As novice oral historians, this workshop was a tremendous help; we would recommend it to other beginners.) While the online workshop was very helpful and boosted our confidence, it was geared to more traditional institution-centered projects; therefore, we had to filter and tailor information and best practices to apply to the circumstances of our own particular, community-based project.
In the process of preparing for, executing and uploading the interview to our blog, we experienced learning curves. We had some guiding questions prepared, based on our existing knowledge of Kate’s interests and life experiences and we did ask these questions, but many more arose as the interview unfolded. As Kate spoke, she delved into areas of her life story; her mother’s strength, creativity and fortitude, family and traditions, traditional foods and preservation techniques, local traditions, early memories, school, growing food, creativity with food, living with very little money, community, her role in the food pantry, and more.
Kate was born and raised in Cerro, NM, went to primary school there, then Questa High School, was married at 18 and soon after became a mother of two children. She worked as a cashier for much of her life and then went into cooking, which she loves. She takes seriously her responsibilities as a mother and her volunteer work in her community. At the time of the interview, she was the co-director of the North Central NM Food Pantry.
Outcomes and Archive Links: This is an example of the One on One Interview, one of the four methods of memory gathering outlined in the Mellon grant. What came from our interview with Kate is a rich, topically diverse hour and twelve minute recording.
Listen here: http://nmdigitalheritage.org/s/manitos/media/302
See overview for this archive entry: http://nmdigitalheritage.org/s/manitos/item/301
What we noticed: Getting to interview someone is a privilege and an honor. It provides a window into another person’s world and, in the case of our interview with Kate, into another time and a lifestyle in this place. From our experience, an interview it can be a gift to all involved, including the interviewee, as they revisit their life and past experiences and guide the interviewer(s) through their story.
Organizers Notes: Taking a baby along to an interview can present some challenges, but if it means accomplishing the interview, it’s worth it. As a result of having the baby along, we did not take notes as thoroughly throughout the interview, to time-stamp the different sections. Although we weren’t planning to do significant edits in this first phase, it’s extremely helpful to have these notes for future uses.
Take internet speed into account when uploading large files to the archive. If you want to upload a large sound file or high resolution scan, you might be better off going to a place (library) with high speed internet. If you do not have a high speed connection the upload may fail multiple times, as we experienced. Based on internet connection/upload speed we were faced with the option to split this audio interview into parts (original size is over 1GB) or upload as an Mp3. We opted for the latter, as we are still figuring out best practices, protocols and size limits for large sound files, coupled with the reality of upload speed.
Featured Image: Kate Cisneros in her kitchen, photo courtesy of Questa Stories.