Modern challenges greet oral historians meeting in Little Tokyo

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...As oral historians gathered to kick off the Southwest Oral History Assn.'s Conference in Little Tokyo, the story-keepers, one by one, came clean: They needed help entering the modern age.

Oral history is an ancient tradition of capturing and passing on life stories and experiences. But many of the collected words of genocide survivors, civil rights activists, war veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary pasts have yet to find their way to broad audiences.

Most recorded voices are still stored in obscure collections in universities and museums or in historians' home offices. Thousands of hours are on cassette or reel-to-reel tape, vulnerable to deterioration and not backed up. Some have not been listened to in decades.

Lack of training is one reason. Money is another. Transferring decades of audio into digital files is costly. Ethics also comes into play. What would people interviewed in the 1950s have said about posting their personal stories on the Internet for all the world to hear?

At the four-day 30th anniversary conference, which ends Sunday, panels and workshops looked toward the future....

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