D.C. Communities and Their Creation of Identity

This website is a culmination of two semesters of work. This began as an oral history project, and was transformed into a digital history project as a way to better present and expand on the stories shared in the oral histories. Please take a look around!

The Original Project

This project began in the fall of 2019 when I moved to Washington, D.C. from Minnesota for graduate school. While studying for my MA in Public History I took a course in Oral History. We were charged with conducting an oral history project from start to “finish”.

We interviewed two couples for the project. The first – Martha Tango and Antero Klemola – are from Bolivia and Finland. The second – Svetlana Belenkaya and Jude Crocker – are from Ukraine and England. I interviewed the wives, while my male partner interviewed the husbands.

My partner and I created a podcast that focuses on common themes and differences we found in the interviews. Take a listen to the podcast via the Sound Cloud link on the right!

The New Concept

This digital project began as a way to expand on the associated oral history project. When conducting the interviews and developing the concept behind the project, I kept thinking about the things that connect communities. What does it mean to belong to a place? How is your identity impacted by the places that you’ve lived?

As a visual learner, I wanted to create a database that would track the lives of these individuals and serve as a place stories and memories could be preserved. Conceptually, the database would be handed over to the family, and they could add pictures and more stories to the map as their lives continued on.

Out of curiosity, I began by plotting my life on the map. While the interviews I conducted were long, I am far more familiar with my own life and created a more through map. This helped me solve problems I didn’t even know I would run into!

This map and digital history project evolved into more theoretical idea based around the things that connect people in a community. The events and places that we share, for example. As you can see on the map below, the three lives on the map have crossed paths many times. I’m curious what other experiences we have in common that connect Martha, Svetlana, and me.

The linked map below allows you to follow Martha Tango, Svetlana Belenkaya, and myself across the world during their lives. Google’s My Map was used to build the interactive.

Check out the interactive map via the link below!

Now what?

The rest of the website is a database of sorts, which hosts links to the interview recordings and their transcriptions. The images next to the respective interviewee are from the map linked above.

Martha Tango

Martha is a Bolivian married to a Finnish man, Antero. They currently reside in Bethesda, Maryland where they live with their four children.

Martha’s map includes the following points – Sucre, Bolivia, her home town – Helsinki, Finland, her home for 11 years – Pennsylvania, where she was an exchange student – Bethesda, Maryland, her home of the last 5 years.

Check out Martha’s transcript for a more in depth look at her journey around the world.

Svetlana Belenkaya

Svetlana is an American citizen who grew up in the former USSR before immigrating to the United States in 1991. She now lives in Rockville, Maryland with her husband and three children.

Svetlana’s map includes, but is not limited to, the following points – Oseda, Ukraine, her first home – Cleveland, Ohio, her home after immigrating to the US – London, England, where she lived with her husband and had three children – Rockville, Maryland, her home for the past seven years.

Check out Svetlana’s transcript for a more in depth look at her journey around the world.

Ani Murray

Ani is the author of this website. She is currently a master’s student at American University, obtaining her degree in Public History.

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