By Alyssa Fisher, WJ Communications

The General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) announced Monday that it has been pilot-testing a new mobile app for recording and submitting oral histories. 

In a press conference, Dr. Ashley Boggan D., the Commission’s General Secretary, shared that the app, called United Methodist Stories, was developed exclusively by GCAH digital archivist Kevin Dusenberry. The app promises to usher in a new era of accessibility and efficiency in capturing and processing oral histories across the connection.

Rev. Molly Vetter of the California-Pacific Conference shared her experience using the app during General Conference, saying, “It’s satisfying to help capture what’s happening around the edges of, and in preparation for, General Conference.”

The app is currently invitation-only, but there are plans to expand its availability soon, and Boggan hopes that annual conferences will adopt the app. The app will offer customization opportunities, such as adding unique prompts to collect a series of stories on specific topics.

By leveraging the convenience of mobile technology, the Commission aims to democratize the process, empowering individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute their unique stories and perspectives. Boggan highlighted the importance of oral histories within archival work as an opportunity to collect stories in multiple languages and “especially narratives from cultures that are not dominantly written.”

Submissions will be protected for a period of 25 years by default, but users could waive that option. The 25-year classification is intended to encourage the documentation of a variety of voices surrounding issues such as the “three Rs” from this General Conference, allowing submitters to share their thoughts freely in the moment, add nuance to the historical record, and share information with future scholars.

The oral history submissions will include the option to add keywords and are not limited in time, but participants are encouraged to keep their recordings to 15-20 minutes. The GCAH is using artificial intelligence to support processing, adding keywords, and screening for inappropriate or irrelevant submissions.

GCAH’s embrace of digital innovation serves as a testament to its commitment to safeguarding our shared heritage for future generations. With the launch of this groundbreaking app, the Commission paves the way for a more inclusive and dynamic approach to oral history preservation. Find out more on the GCAH website.

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