Mary Marshall Clark and Amy Starecheski will present at the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Seminar on New York and American Material Culture on Thursday, April 16, at 6 pm. Their talk is entitled “The Architecture of Public Memory in Oral History: Why Shape and Scale Matter.”

Mary Marshall Clark and Amy Starecheski, leaders in the theory and practice of oral history at Columbia University, will talk collaboratively about their creation of public memory projects ‘at scale,’ exploring the architecture of how oral history projects are built for academic research, public and political impact, and as archives that secure memories for generations. Clark will delve into the design and execution of large-scale projects that both preserve and intervene in public memory, from September 11, 2001 to the detention of people without trial at Guantanamo to the Center’s newest undertaking: the Obama Presidential Oral History Project.

Starecheski will discuss starting on a smaller scale in mind and building projects from the ground up. She will focus on her current endeavor, “The Mott Haven Oral History Project.” Deeply embodied relationships, collaboration, and place are essential elements of its design.

Together, Clark and Starecheski will show how and why defining the structure and scale of a project is essential to building a ‘house of memory’ that will stand the test of time; as the past, present, and future intersect in the utopian project of transforming oral history into historical memory.


Mary Marshall Clark is the Director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research, located in the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) at Columbia University. She is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts program. Clark has been involved in oral history since 1991. Formerly, she was an oral historian and filmmaker at the New York Times. She was also the co-principal investigator, with Peter Bearman, of the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, and has directed projects on the Carnegie Corporation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Japanese Internment on the East Coast, the Apollo Theater, and Women in the Visual Arts. Clark also writes on issues of memory, the mass media, trauma, and ethics in oral history. She is an editor of After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 2001 and the Years that Followed (The New Press, 2011). Her current work focuses on the global impact of torture and detention policies at Guantánamo Bay.

Amy Starecheski
is a cultural anthropologist and oral historian whose research focuses on the use of oral history in social movements and the politics of history, value, and property in cities. She is the Director of the Oral History Masters Program at Columbia University. She consults and lectures widely on oral history education and methods, and is co-author of the Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide. She was a lead interviewer on Columbia’s September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project. Starecheski was a member of the Core Working Group for Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change from 2011 to 2018, where she facilitated the Practitioner Support Network. In 2015 she won the Oral History Association’s article award for “Squatting History: The Power of Oral History as a History-Making Practice,” and in 2016 she was awarded the Sapiens-Allegra “Will the Next Margaret Mead Please Stand Up?” prize for public anthropological writing. She received a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was a Public Humanities Fellow. Starecheski also is the author of Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City (University of Chicago Press, 2016). She is the founder of the Mott Haven Oral History Project, which collaboratively documents, activates, and amplifies the stories of her longtime neighborhood, as told by the people who live there.