Firsthand stories of Illinois ag history available online
Audio-Video Barn features 300 hours of interviews
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[November 04, 2009]
SPRINGFIELD -- Anyone with a computer can now
see and hear the history of Illinois agriculture told by the people
who lived it. During a news conference on Tuesday, the Illinois
State Museum launched the Audio-Video Barn, at
http://avbarn.museum.state.il.us/, featuring 300 hours of
interviews with more than 130 people involved with agriculture in
Illinois over the past 129 years.
The Web site is the culmination of a two-year "Oral History of
Illinois Agriculture" project, led by the Illinois State Museum
and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The interviews tell the story of Illinois agriculture from
the people who know it best -- grain farmers, beekeepers, elk
ranchers, 4-H kids, college professors, broadcasters and pumpkin
growers, among others, from every corner of the state.
A unique feature of the Web site is the ability to search the
audio and video clips based on topic, name, date or geographic
location. The Web site also features educational resources for
students and teachers, including instructional videos on how to
do oral-history interviews and lesson plans based on
"The Audio-Video Barn Web site is rich with fascinating
stories about Illinois agriculture," said Robert Warren, project
director and curator of anthropology at the Illinois State
Museum. "Visitors can search the Web site and find the answers
to many interesting questions, such as: ‘What was it like to
farm with horses 100 years ago? How has agriculture changed
since then? How are farmers coping with challenges to the family
The Web site is supported by a $564,651 National Leadership
Grant to the Illinois State Museum Society from the federal
Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The project recorded more than 70 new interviews throughout
the state, many using digital video cameras. Some are
"walk-and-talk" interviews on location in the field, dairy barn
or orchard. The Web site also includes 60 interviews from old
audiotapes archived in libraries at the University of Illinois
at Springfield and Northern Illinois University. The oldest
recalls memories from the 1880s.
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The Randforce Associates LLC, University at Buffalo, State
University of New York provided expertise in computer indexing to
make all of the stories accessible in a searchable format.
"This collection will be a fantastic resource to anyone who wants
to know more about the role agriculture has played in Illinois'
history and continues to play today," said Mark DePue, director of
oral history for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and
Museum. "There's something in this collection for everyone, be it a
high school student, academic scholar, journalist or curious
"This Audio-Video Barn is a compilation of our state's rich
agricultural history," said Illinois Department of Agriculture
Director Tom Jennings. "This resource will especially benefit our
future ag leaders, as they can now hear and see firsthand accounts
from generations past and build upon that knowledge to maintain
Illinois' status as one of the strongest agrarian states in the
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