Oral History

The ways humans make and use materials changes over time. Oil-based materials are an ordinary part of everyone’s life now, but this change has only happened in the last century. There are still people alive who remember a time before single-use plastic packaging and synthetic fabrics were so common. As people become increasingly aware of the impacts of climate change, there is a renewed interest in traditional materials.

Use your phone or other audio device to record conversations with elders in your community to capture their memories and experiences with material and energy transitions. You don’t have to ask all the questions, you can choose just a few and let the conversation guide you.

Interviews in all languages are welcome! Questions are available in Mandarin and English. We would like to expand to include Kreyol and Spanish soon. The questions are for all of us to contemplate, but I encourage you to reach out to friends and family who are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Experiences and stories vary depending on where people grew up and their living conditions.

This oral history initiative was developed in response to the 2020 Westtown Artist Residency Project at The Weaving Mill in Chicago and the swatch exchange for Having Friends in the Future (HFF), an experimental project sponsored by the National Taiwan Crafts Research and Development Center and organized by Tribe Against Machine.

To add your interview to the Oil Ancestors collection, upload your recording and signed release document to this form: https://tinyurl.com/oil-OH-submission

How to interview

A how-to guide for conducting a one-on-one interview remotely or in person with your phone as a recording device.

Interview Release Form

Make sure you get written consent to record and share the interview.

Interview Submission Form

Upload your interview audio. Consider including a photograph of your speaker too!

Share your story

Record your memory as a voice comment directly from this website! (Mandarin)