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Publish Date: 1/3/2006

Internet helps bring oral history home


LONGMONT — The one time Leonard Loukonen rode his saddle horse to school, it galloped home so fast at the end of the day he decided never to take his horse to school again.

“All that horse knew was high gear,” said Loukonen, who was born in Longmont in 1916 and grew up on a farm in Lyons. Loukonen died Friday, Dec. 30, 2005, at his farm. He was 89.

Loukonen’s story is part of the Maria Rogers Oral History Program collection, which can now be listened to and read online through a DSL or cable Internet connection.

The Boulder Public Library Foundation provided a large portion of the funding for the online project.

The program, begun in 1976, contains more than 1,300 audio- and videotaped interviews with longtime residents and others about the history of Boulder County. It is named for the woman who guided the project for 12 years.

Until recently, interviews could only be read and listened to at the Boulder Public Library’s Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, at 1125 Pine St., in Boulder.

“One of the reasons we’re so excited about (online access) is people can actually listen to interviews at home instead of having to spend an hour or two at the library,” said Susan Becker, program manager for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program. “Literally, people from all over the world can listen.”

The Oral History Program is amazing because it allows people to listen to the voices of relatives they haven’t heard for 30 years, or ever, Becker said.

One of the obstacles Becker said they faced in putting the earlier interviews online was getting permission for online use from those who were interviewed before the advent of the Internet.

Becker said about 90 percent of the interview subjects contacted agreed to have their stories told online. The interviews of those who declined can still be heard at the Carnegie branch, along with videos of the interviews, which aren’t available online.

Becker said she’s received positive feedback about online access to the interviews.

One patron wrote in a letter that she enjoys the comfort and ease of home access. She said she’s already listened to five interviews and plans to listen to at least 15 more.

Interviews are generally one to two hours long and are used for a variety of projects, including genealogy research, writing books and finding meaning in historical records, Becker said.

Marti Anderson, who used interviews from the Oral History Program to finish her book, “The Mining Camps: Salina and Summerville,” said the interviews were valuable because they allowed her to listen to what life was actually like in the mining camps.

“That’s kind of the value of oral history,” Anderson said. “You’re exposed to things that just wouldn’t be put in a book but are great stories to listen to.”

For the past three years, at least 100 interviews have been added each year to the Maria Rogers Oral History Program.

“Oral histories are just so full of personality and color,” said Becker. “Sometimes I laugh, or sometimes I find myself in tears.”

Laurel Ann Henderson can be reached at 303-684-5336, or by e-mail at tcnewsintern3@times-call.com.

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