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Rochester Hills oral history via Facebook

September 8, 2010

ROCHESTER HILLS — The memories of local seniors are now available to a large audience, thanks to social media sites.

The Rochester Oral History Archive Project is a joint effort of the Village of Rochester Hills shopping center and the Oakland University Writing Project.

“Facebook and Twitter give people an easy way to listen to these oral histories,” said project coordinator Cormelia Pokrzywa. “You can very quickly get an audience that you can’t get in other ways.”

The project’s mission includes making technology accessible to seniors while building a local history resource for residents of all ages. Currently, the ROHA Facebook site offers histories of the Give Thanks Bakery and Café, the Halfway Down the Stairs children’s bookstore and more. 

The Village of Rochester Hills shopping center awarded a $2,000 grant toward the effort, as part of its Building the Civic ‘Net philanthropic initiative, announced last March. The initiative is designed to support local social media projects in the public interest.

Pokrzywa is an Oakland University special lecturer in the writing and rhetoric department, and specializes in teaching first-year, technology-intensive writing courses. She is also a longtime Oakland Township resident, and a graduate of Rochester Adams High School and Oakland University.

“Cornelia creates the oral histories and then creates a conversation about people’s memories,” said Scott Aikens, vice president of leasing for the Village of Rochester Hills.

Residents are invited to participate by sharing memories connected to local historical sites, events and communities. “We are looking for couples who met in Rochester Hills for Valentine’s Day,” Pokrzywa said at the ROHA kick-off event Feb. 4 at the Village of Rochester Hills.    

Three upcoming events are scheduled for seniors interested in participating, Pokrzywa said. The Older Persons’ Commission, 650 Letica Drive, will host a 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 19 session.

Sessions at the Rochester Hills Public Library, 500 Old Towne in Rochester, are scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon March 22 and April 2. Walk-ins are welcome. Participants will be guided through a series of prompts to capture their stories, and researchers will upload materials to the ROHA Web site.

Funding for ROHA is supplemented by a matching grant from Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Writing Project, which is a local site for the National Writing Project.

Those who want to get involved in the oral history effort are invited to join the ROHA Facebook group or follow the ROHA Twitter feed.

About the author

Staff Writer Linda Shepard covers Rochester Hills and Oakland Township for the Rochester Post. Shepard has worked for C & G Newspapers since 1998, graduated from Oakland University and is a past winner of the Michigan Press Association award. Shepard takes an avid interest in Detroit’s history and current rebirth.


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