Panitza Library

"Oral Histories of Blagoevgrad", Book editor: Desislava Manova, Supervising editor: Prof. Laura Kelly, Book designer: Yenlik O'Neill

February 07, 2021

This book is a collection of oral histories from some of Blagoevgrad's elders, stories that students gathered and assembled as part of their coursework at AUBG. In these stories we read the words of people interpreting their own lives. We see the past of this city animated, and we come to know it through the experiences and recollections of the people who have lived here. The people for whom this city is their city.

These oral histories were part of a larger, three-year project called Blagoevgrad Community Mapping. The community mapping project was the focus of a reimagined storytelling course I have taught that is part of the Journalism and Mass Communication curriculum. Blagoevgrad Community Mapping began in 2017 and concluded in 2020 when the global pandemic necessitated online teaching and learning, and the university community dispersed.

The Blagoevgrad Community Mapping project had many ambitions and a valuable resource and partner-the Blagoevgrad Regional Historical Museum. One of the primary aims of the project was the exploration and documentation of this city through storytelling about its present and its past. To that end, students were assigned projects that sent them outside of the classroom and into the streets and the shops and the homes of the people who live here.

After being trained in best practices, creating interviewing protocols, and crafting questions, students worked in pairs and selected subjects for lengthy life history interviews. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Extracts from some of those interviews and images of the subjects are collected here. The complete audio files of all the interviews are archived in the university's Panitza Library, another invaluable partner in this project.

This book is a chorus of many voices. Dozens of students from Digital Storytelling classes collected stories. Several students from an Advanced Writing for Media course wrote historical notes, fact checked and helped with the selection of photos. Two students worked with me to make the publication of this book possible - Yenlik O'Neill as book designer, and Desislava Manova as book editor.

But I and all of the students involved in this book owe our deepest gratitude to all of the elders who invited AUBG students into their lives and entrusted them with their stories. That generosity of time and spirit humbles us and connects us to this community in ways we never imagined.

Laura Kelly – supervising editor

Manova, D., & Kelly, L. (Eds.). (2020). Oral Histories of Blagoevgrad. Smilkov Print Ltd.

PN4775 .K45 2020

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