University of Rochester

On Obama's 100th Day in Office, University of Rochester Records Oral Histories of 2008 Election

April 29, 2009

While President Barack Obama prepares to address the nation on the 100th day of his administration, University of Rochester students, staff, and faculty will be busy collecting stories about the historic 2008 election that placed him in office. From 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Welles-Brown Room of the University's Rush Rhees Library, individuals of all ages and political persuasions are invited to share their personal experiences of the election and months that followed.

"The oral history project is a fabulous way to document what is happening now for future generations," said Christine Ridarsky, a history doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester and city historian for the City of Rochester. "The election of 2008 was just such a historic moment; Rochester and Monroe County both set records for voter turn out and the passion for all candidates was visible in the community."

Trained University students, equipped with digital audio recorders and, in some cases, video cameras, will be on hand all day to tape interviews. Typically sessions last from 10 to 30 minutes, although longer interviews can be scheduled for a separate time, if needed. No appointment is necessary.

"My favorite part of history is hearing people's stories," said Sarah Mancuso, a senior history and psychology major who is volunteering for the project despite her end-of-the-semester exam schedule. Mancuso, who was inspired by the excitement she felt around the election, said she saw the oral history project "as a great way to involve the University with the city."

Michael Brown, a doctoral history student, helped bring the project to campus because he saw it as a chance to "capture that historical magic that was this election for many people before time intervenes to dilute those memories." He noted that the campaign was important to many different constituencies, including women and minorities, and he hopes that the oral history project will capture stories from "all these different groups."

Begun in February, 2009, the Election 2008 Oral History Project has held eight public recording sessions at local libraries, St. John Fisher College, and SUNY Brockport, gathering stories so far from about 50 Rochester residents, said Ridarsky. Those stories range from the experiences of campaign volunteers who traveled to other states to work in the primaries to the challenges of an African-American man who was the only Republican in his extended family. Wednesday's event at the University is the last scheduled session for the project.

The Election 2008 Oral History Project is sponsored by the Office of the Rochester City Historian, the Monroe County Historian's Office, the Monroe County Library System, and the Rochester Regional Library Council's Documentary Heritage Program. For more information about the oral history project or to schedule an individual interview, contact Ridarsky at (585) 428-8095 or