Promotional materials about the Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History project for our project team, community partners, local Marion County organizations, and the press. Feel free to use this information in outreach or promotions for Marion Voices program events, or to pass the word along to friends and neighbors! Please contact Project Director Jess Lamar Reece Holler for more information, or PDF copies of any of these press materials.


Includes Project Director’s Letter, Marion Voices FAQ, “1-Pager” Fact Sheet, and Talking Points


Marion Voices is a new county-wide oral history and folklife/folk arts project from the Marion County Historical Society, to capture everyday stories from our recent past and to document expressive cultural traditions that constitute Marion’s cultural heritages. In 2019-2020, we will focus on documenting folklife/traditional/cultural arts from multiple underserved Marion County communities; and we will focus on gathering oral histories from Marion’s Black communities, focused on Black life/culture/experience in Marion County, 1960s-now.


This fall, with support from Ohio Humanities and the Ohio Arts Council, the Marion County Historical Society will launch the Marion Voices Bicentennial Folklife and Oral History Project — a county-wide folklife/folk arts and oral history project designed in collaboration with local communities. Marion Voices will capture stories of underserved communities and everyday people in Marion County, and connect MCHS with local history efforts across the county; and will document traditional and community-based creative and cultural practices, to help amplify diverse cultural arts and heritages for Marion County’s Bicentennial year … and beyond!



Our two-week whirlwind folklife/folk arts survey of Marion County will generate interviews, arts documentation, videos, and photographs, surveying the vibrant cultural, traditional, and heritage arts of Marion County. In Spring of 2020, we’ll take these documentary materials, and collaborate with a web designer to build out the Marion Voices ‘Culture Keepers’ Roster: an interactive, searchable, multi-media online roster featuring Marion County cultural artists, and documentation
of their work! Then, in late Spring 2020, we’ll collaborate with select artists to produce a Folklife Program Pilot Event Series of folk arts performances and demonstrations, in collaboration with our community partner organizations, and Marion’s Bicentennial events.


With support from a Major Grant from Ohio Humanities, after we gather oral histories focused on Black life, history, and memory in Marion County since the 1960’s, we will invite interviewees, community scholars, community partner organizations, and anyone interested in the community,
to help us co-curate pop-up exhibits and events based on these oral histories. Our oral histories will also be available to the public locally, and via our to-be-created digital archive, online.


What Is the Marion Voices Bicentennial Folklife + Oral History Project?

Marion Voices is all about everyday histories (oral histories!)and everyday culture (folklife!) in Marion County — histories and creative arts forms practices and enacted by everyday, rural, working class and people of color, from all corners of our county. While Presidents (for example) do shape history, MCHS thinks it’s time to also start documenting and exhibiting the stories of everyday Marion County residents — in collaboration with our communities.

• Folklife and heritage and cultural arts further enhance this mission — they showcase the ways traditional arts form (passed down informally by families, church communities, in workplaces, or in small groups) a rich vein of culture that shape our local “sense of place” and make our community vibrant!

Why is the Marion County Historical Society Doing This? Why Now?

• The vibrant histories of our county’s Black, rural, immigrant and newcomer and other marginalized communities have not historically been reflected in MCHS’s collections, exhibitions or programming. Marion Voices will be a first step for MCHS in telling a more comprehensive story of Marion County and its people — and inviting residents to hear each other’s stories where they happen.

• Moreover, the project will allow us to collaborate closely with community partner organizations already doing this work across Marion County. Our community partners for Marion Voices include: Black Heritage Council, Logos Christian Ministries, WDIF-LP FM, Terradise Nature Center, OSU-Marion Extension, Marion Public Libraries, and Marion Public Schools.

• Through our support of the Marion Bicentennial Planning Commission, and our project’s roots in a 2018 Community-Collaborative Planning Process, funded by Ohio Humanities, Marion Voices gives us the chance to learn from, connect with and collaborate with local history efforts already happening across our county; and to mobilize folk/traditional/heritage arts to expand our programming and showcase the vibrant heritage creative practices of different cultural groups in our community!

What Is Folklore // “Folklife” // Folk Arts?

• “Folklife” or folk arts surveys focus on the cultural forms and traditions communities pass on traditionally, often by face-to-face instruction. So, we say “culture-keepers,” just like we would say “memory keeper” in an oral history project.

• “Folk Arts” and Traditional Arts, per state & federal arts funders’ designations, usually include the following genres:
Verbal Arts: singing, spoken word, storytelling, ballads, rap, hip-hop, music, gospel choirs, urban legends, schoolyard jumprope and clapping games, most things you can think of that get spoken/ shared via words in small groups
Dance: of all kinds; but usually the kinds taught practiced in informal/community settings (think churches or high-school step teams … not fancy ballet training schools)
Music: taught and practiced in community! Anything from rap to gospel to country to hip-hop!
Material Culture: quilting, wood-carving, crafts, yard art/decoration, clothes-making, sewing, art environments … the sky’s the limit.
Foodways: traditional home cooking and food cultures (restaurants/chefs, but also traditional community/church meals, holiday meals, etc.)
Vernacular Architecture: traditional building styles
Occupational Folklife/Labor Lore: work/labor traditions, ways of working/making things, stories about unions or small businesses
Festivals: community events, festivals, traditions, celebrations (the MLK Park basketball tournament, Juneteenth, the Blues festival, etc.)

• Now you know what folklore is — it’s not “fake stuff” — it’s cultural expressive forms, usually (but not always!) with a “traditional” element passed down informally, often in small groups. Tell your friends!

• The Marion Voices Oral History + Folklife Project includes folk/traditional arts as important forms of cultural heritage in Marion County. Understanding life stories and the cultural forms community groups use to keep themselves resilient, and to further struggles for justice, opportunity, and joy, go hand in hand. “We want bread … we want roses, too!”

What Is Oral History?

• Oral history is a kind of long-form, guided life history narrative — usually elicited by a trained professional oral historian; and recorded with an audio recorder and microphone. The idea is, everyday life histories by working class people rarely get recorded or written down. At MCHS, we believe strongly these important everyday stories make up the often-unheard, and real, history of Marion.

• In an oral history interview, you tell your own story. What you share is up to you: in your own voice, at your own pace. Interviews usually range from 1.5 hours to 3 hours — though some can run as long as 7 hours, or as little as 45 minutes! The interviewer is trained to follow your narrative, and to be quiet!

• For the Marion Voices project, in 2019-2021, we’ll be recording interviews in Marion’s Black community, focusing on Black and African-American history in Marion County, from the 1960s until the present. In particular, we’ll focus on themes of work and sense of place/space-making in Marion County.

What Will the Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Project Do?

• Starting in December 2019, we’ll be working in Marion communities to document traditional arts
practices (from diverse cultural, heritage, and folk arts/folklife traditions) and collect oral history
interviews (focused on Black life/history in Marion)

• In Spring 2020, we’ll input our folklife/folk arts survey documentation into the Marion Voices ‘Culture-
Keepers’ Roster — a searchable online archive, database, and map of traditional/folk/heritage cultural arts in Marion County! We’ll then collaborate with Marion County cultural artists to program and launch a Pilot Marion Voices Folklife Event Series (and possibly even, a Folklife Festival!) for late Spring 2020!

• Then, on the oral history front, starting in Spring or Summer 2020, we’ll work with interviewees and community members to co-curate pop-up exhibits based on our oral histories about Black history in Marion, 1960s-now,— potentially including family photographs, home movies, music, and local artifacts.
Interviewees will be guided in selecting themes, clips & interpretive text & objects. We’ll also plan one or several community events connected to each pop-up exhibit!

• Next, we’ll work together to organize “pop-up” installations at venues of significance to the community — from churches to restaurants to community centers … even, perhaps, phone booths!

•Finally, each pop-up exhibit will play host to a range of oral history events — from “listening parties” to home movie screenings to community discussion panels to educational workshops.

• Our oral history work will also culminate, starting in Summer 2021, in a community planning and co- curation process for a permanent exhibit focused on Black History in Marion County, drawn from our project interviews and community conversations, to be installed at MCHS’s Heritage Hall.

Why Should I Care?

Marion Voices aims to diversify the range of individuals and communities that the Marion County Historical Society serves, and to broaden our focus to the incredible stories and traditional cultural heritage practices of every-day, working class, rural, and communities of color within the county —
including experiences of the recent past, from the 1970s to the present. These stories deserve to be heard.

• The project aims to inspire Marion County residents to listen across lines of difference (racial, ethnic, geographic) to understand a wide range of experiences that have made up life in the county, across the economic, cultural and environmental changes in the last four decades

• We hope this listening project will not only democratize and diversify the historical record, but, through our connection with the arts and community-driven and -collaborative local history, will promote deep listening, understanding, exchange and solidarity across different communities in our county … and will inspire deep pride in place for our Marion County.

How Do I Get Involved?

• We’re so excited to collaborate with you! We need your voice, experience, cultural heritage, traditions and stories to make Marion Voices the best that it can be! We invite your participation at every stage.

• Please join us and share your voice and input as we collectively shape the Marion Voices project for the future. Attend our upcoming Community Kick-off Meeting this winter (Thursday, December 19th, 3-9pm); or send us an email!

• Send us recommendations on cultural/traditional/folk artists in your community, so we can include
them in our folklife documentation survey this winter!

• Send us (with their permission) names of Black community elders for us to interview, as a part of our oral history project on Black history in Marion County, 1960s-now.