Photo: Tyler Sano
by Deborah Juarez
On February 28, 2013 Merced High School showcased an Oral History Project; students interviewing family or friends, capturing their history. The exhibit, held at the Merced County Courthouse Museum, displayed photographs, from the past and present, about the student’s interviewee. The exhibit also contained a biography sketch of the interviewee’s life story below their name. The exhibit had over 100 photographs and more than 30 bio sketches.
There were four people that played a huge role in creating and putting together this exhibit. Mr. Sebastian is a History and AP US History teacher at MHS. Mr. Sandoval, who teaches sophomore World History, collaborated with Sebastion the first ever Oral History Project in MHS’s history. Out of his three AP classes and two regular classes, Mr. Sebastian chose his 2nd period AP class and his 6th period regular history class to participate in the project because those two period best fit the two teachers’ planning schedule. The two teachers are the ones that made today’s ordinary students into historians. However they did receive some help from the school librarian Ms. Morgan. Morgan was in charge of receiving all of the photographs that were sent to her, taking the students portraits, being the “communication line” for the courthouse and sending the staff and students their invitation to the event. Finally, Sarah Lim, who works at the Courthouse Museum, was responsible for bringing it all together. Lim was the person who designed and organized the event and opening, printed up and enlarged all the photographs. Basically, Lim “was raising our baby with our stuff” said Morgan.
The showcase had four themes that student wrote about; Serving the Country, Building the Nation, Making it in America, and Starting a New Life. There were some students who wrote about their parents and even some who wrote about their grandparents. Scattered around the exhibit were pictures, artifacts, stories and history that the public did not know what was around Merced.
“I think this was a wonderful event for the school, Merced County, it was very, very educational and I hope they continue to do things like this because I feel that young people are missing a lot of history,” said Mary Brummell-Lennon an observer/visitor that heard about the showcase and decided to check it out. Lennon has been living in Merced for 66 years and for her, this experience of the Oral History Project was something that hit home for her. Lennon is full blooded Portuguese, but does not speak one word of Portuguese. Growing up it was hard for her to communicate with her grandmother, gestures did help but actually communicating with her properly and getting to know her grandmother was something that Mrs. Lennon never got a chance to do. She regrets not knowing her grandmother’s history and life story. She could have learned so much more. That is why she is advising youths today who still have their grandparents around to ask them questions, to talk to them and learn something from them to pass down to future generations. Even if they won’t be there physically, their story will be passed down for years to come, that was the intension the Oral History Project.