Preserving our Heritage: Douglas A. Boyd and the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer

portions originally published via University of Kentucky News

Doug Boyd, author of the recently published Crawfish Bottom, made news this week for his commitment to finding new and engaging ways to work with oral histories. Boyd, the director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, teamed up with Eric Weig, the director of Digital Library services to create an Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). OHMS is a technological program that enables individuals to search oral histories for specific keywords, saving precious time for both experienced researchers and students. Recently, the University of Kentucky libraries were awarded a $195,000 grant in order to expand OHMS. The grant was presented in the Advancing Digital Resources category which supports the creation and preservation of important digital resources as well as the development of alternative ways to improve access and use of digital assets.

Doug Boyd’s interest in digital resources is reflected in his new book Crawfish Bottom, which traces the history of the community of Craw. Initially depicted as hoodlums with a passion for crime and unsanitary living conditions, the area became a target for urban renewal projects and was eventually demolished in the mid 1960s in order to build the city’s Capital Plaza. Boyd offers an important history of the 400 families that were displaced and the culture of the community they were forced to leave behind. Blending together firsthand accounts from residents of Craw and those from neighboring towns, Crawfish Bottom relies on oral histories to introduce the popular misconceptions of the area and subsequently refute them with a more balanced and accurate account.

Boyd will be involved in numerous upcoming events in the Kentucky area, further promoting Crawfish Bottom and his fascinating approach to oral history. On October 25, Boyd will participate in the Community, Race, and Memory Symposium at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort focused on exploring the lives and culture of African Americans in Frankfort. He will be joined by Sheila Mason Burton and filmmaker Joanna Hay. Audio clips from interviews for Crawfish Bottom will be played and there will be a roundtable discussion followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Boyd will also be at the Kentucky Book Fair November 12 at the Frankfort Convention Center.

A small neighborhood in northern Frankfort, Kentucky, Crawfish Bottom was located on fifty acres of swampy land along the Kentucky River. “Craw’s” reputation for vice, violence, moral corruption, and unsanitary conditions made it a target for urban renewal projects that replaced the neighborhood with the city’s Capital Plaza in the mid-1960s.

Douglas A. Boyd’s Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community traces the evolution of the controversial community that ultimately saw four-hundred families displaced. Using oral histories and firsthand memories, Boyd not only provides a record of a vanished neighborhood and its culture but also demonstrates how this type of study enhances the historical record. A former Frankfort police officer describes Craw’s residents as a “rough class of people, who didn’t mind killing or being killed.” In Crawfish Bottom, the former residents of Craw acknowledge the popular misconceptions about their community but offer a richer and more balanced view of the past.

Douglas A. Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky, is a coeditor of Community Memories: A Glimpse of African American Life in Frankfort, Kentucky. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Eloquently traces the ways that the residents of a community define their place and their relationship to it. Crawfish Bottom seamlessly weaves together history, follkore, and geography into an engaging, trenchant, and substantive whole.”–Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory

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About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission—the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. The Press is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of the University of Kentucky and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.

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