The past week I have worked on getting ready to interview a ninety-five-year-old WWII pilot who was an instructor at Mesa del Rey Flight School in King City during the war. Thus, I have been reading through all the material given to me by various people. Copies of the History of Mesa del Rey have been given to me by people at the King City Airport from their collection, I received one from a private collection of a local couple, and one from Rava Ranches (currently occupying the old school grounds), however they were all low quality copies and difficult to read. After some additional reading of other articles and notes typed on a typewriter, I have discovered who wrote this history article and where I can find an official copy of it. Ultimately, this article, which was originally published in the local newspaper around 1943, helped me understand more about the construction and start of the flight school, so I could develop more meaningful questions for the interview. It also contained the names of many officers and instructors, which could provide clues and inspire stories during the interview.
Along with the reading, I was also continuing to digitize the King’s Logs and through working with the content of the logs, I am beginning to see the plan of the website expand in new directions. I am also beginning to realize that I could use an assistant because I am uploading more and more items on the website (currently at 42), putting them in collections or exhibits, but neglecting to complete the metadata for them. So I am having to go back to tediously complete that too. In some cases I am still searching for names, places, or origins of the documents. I have also found out that the first two years there were no logs that document the lives of cadets, officers, and instructors at the school. In the meantime, I reconsidered the name of the site and added the specific name of the school to the original, “Pilot’s Log” title. I though it was too general and in order to attract the target audience, having the name of the place as part of the website’s title could make a difference.
As far as the class activities and readings, I jumped to Module 7, which gives background on oral history projects, OHMS, and in general the importance and application of it. I have found the OHMS interview annotating activity particularly useful, even before I did any practice of my own. Just to be able to listen to examples of collecting oral history helped me formulate my questions and most of all helped me understand the importance of letting the person tell his or her story, whichever story they prefer and the way they want to tell it, even if it does not answer the question I asked or leads into a completely new topic. I watched the interview with Steve Zahn and the skillful way Doug Boyd navigated it. I also peaked at the Irish American oral history because it features an older person and I wondered how else I might need to approach my pilot, Red Rider, who is nearly a hundred years old. The interview was a success, although unnerving since I’ve never attempted anything like this before and I felt that everyone (there were 10 people present during the interview) looked to me as a professional in this field.
It seems to me at this point that I have an overabundance of material and need to focus my attention on the building of the site. I am still operating with the three basic plugins and need to download more. Also starting to think about maps, which will be another technical challenge. However, before all that, my goal is to have all items digitized, uploaded, and described.