Fellowship to Augment Local History Preservation at UGA Special Collections Libraries

Submitted by Camie on

A University of Georgia doctoral student will focus on stories of Athens’ diverse communities this summer during the inaugural term of the Hargrett Library Fellowship in Local History.

Theodora “Tedi” Light, an Athens native who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in history at UGA, will help grow and increase public access to the Athens African American Oral History Initiative during her fellowship, a new opportunity available thanks to a donor to the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Stephen Mihm, head of the Department of History, praised the anonymous donors who made this new fellowship possible for the sake of students and for members of local communities whose stories will be preserved. “All too often, significant archival material that accumulates in local communities does not survive for the simple reason that there are no repositories where it can be preserved for researchers.  This gift will guarantee that these invaluable historical resources are available for future generations.”

While the fellowship is named for the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, one of three Special Collections units of UGA Libraries, fellowship projects may be chosen from any of those units. The Athens African American Oral History Initiative is a program of the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies’ Oral History Program. In 2023, the initiative gathered more than 80 oral interviews with Black Athenians.

“As a public historian by training, oral histories have been some of the most powerful and fun projects to assist,” said Light. “As a native Athenian, I'm particularly excited to give back to my hometown and help preserve some of the stories that are often overlooked or forgotten. Athens is a big, and growing, college town, but the Black community has often suffered for UGA’s expansion. I'm excited to be able to work towards bridging that divide even just a little.”

For UGA’s Special Collections Libraries, the fellowship provides an opportunity to further an important project to preserve the history of local communities, while training the next generation of historians to continue their mission.

"The Local History Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for the Russell Library's Oral History Program and its digital archive to work with a doctoral student, while focusing on Athens' local Black communities and personal narratives,” said Christian Lopez, head of oral history and media at the Russell Library. “For an emerging public historian like Theodora Light, it's an intensive opportunity to engage with those communities' reflections, and to learn, wrangle, and develop digital humanities workflows that improve preservation and access of those interviews.”