The Life Story Project, a Columbia University initiative consisting of oral histories from people in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama interviewed following Hurricane Katrina, was recently donated to The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage and Katrina Research Center.
Led by Dr. Paula Madrid, director of the Psychosocial Preparedness Division at Columbia’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, the Life Story Project interviewed 50 Gulf Coast residents who were greatly impacted by the storm.
The project used techniques associated with testimony therapy and oral history to help participants identify and acknowledge areas of strength and resiliency in their story. Additionally, participants were provided an opportunity to focus on their individual recovery and re-establish the familial and social roles that may have been damaged following the hurricane.
“Individuals strive for a sense of belonging to a place,” said Madrid. “Displacement ruptures these emotional connections. The ensuing disorientation, nostalgia and alienation may undermine the sense of belonging, in particular, and mental health, in general.”
One of the participants, Haven Foretich III, lived in Biloxi at the time Hurricane Katrina struck. While attending a reception at the Katrina Research Center to accept the Life Story Project donation, Foretich said he was happy the recordings would become part of the center and a part of history.
“Resiliency and hopefulness might be positively affected as the individual’s testimony can also serve to actively uphold human rights, promote oral history and strive for remembrance,” Madrid said.
Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, associate professor and director of the Southern Miss Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, said the university is grateful for the donation. “The method of oral history actively engages community memory,” he said.
Located on the library’s third floor of the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, the Katrina Research Center houses materials related to Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters that have impacted Mississippi. The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage is located on the university’s Hattiesburg campus.
Summer hours for the Katrina Research Center are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about the Katrina Research Center, online visit www.usm.edu/katrina.University of Southern Mississippi Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage associate professor and director Louis Kyriakoudes, left, and Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness Psychosocial Preparedness Division director Paula Madrid, center, speak with Shemeka Bryant of Gulfport.
Bryant was a participant in Columbia University’s Life Story Project, which included oral histories from people in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama interviewed following Hurricane Katrina. Columbia University donated their Life Story Project collection to Southern Miss at a reception June 10.
The Life Story Project will be housed in the Katrina Research Center, located on the library’s third floor of the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, and at the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, located on the university’s Hattiesburg campus. (Southern Miss Public Relations photo by Charmaine Schmermund)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu/gulfcoast .