Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Indiana University scholars participate in Liberian National History Project
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University scholars are helping produce a comprehensive history of Liberia, a key strategy for developing a sense of unity and reconciliation as the democratic West African nation continues to move forward from nearly three decades of conflict and civil war.
Scholars from Liberia, other African nations and the United States met last week in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, for a Liberian National History Project organizing conference, convened by the Liberian Governance Commission and the Ministry of Education as part of Liberia's Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation, and Vision 2030.
Verlon Stone, head of the Indiana University Liberian Collections project, took part in the organizing conference and was named to the advisory committee of the Liberian History Project.
The project also expects to draw on resources in the African Studies Collection in the Indiana University Wells Library, headed by African Studies Librarian Marion Frank-Wilson, and IUScholarWorks, which have additional resources pertaining to the history of Liberia.
At the organizing conference, Liberian historians, political scientists, poets, anthropologists, agricultural economists, development specialists, educators as well as content specialists from Africa and America discussed, debated and outlined the new history, which will form the basis for the Ministry of Education to revise the Liberian history curriculum and textbooks.
At the conference's conclusion, the participants endorsed a resolution adopting a five-year plan to produce a comprehensive, four-volume scholarly history of the Liberian nation and peoples.
IU Liberian Collections and Liberia's Center for National Documents and Records/Archives will serve as the project's resource centers and information clearinghouses, providing researchers and writers with materials from their own collections as well as searching out materials from other archives, museums and libraries in Africa, the United States and Europe.
A key part to producing a comprehensive Liberian history will be to give voice to the histories and cultures of the 16 indigenous groups of Liberia generally omitted from earlier histories. One strategy is for trained workers to collect oral histories from the elder members of communities throughout the country. A second strategy is to locate oral histories collected in the past and stored in various repositories.
Both the IU Liberian Collections and the Center for National Documents and Records/Archives will be surveying the repositories in their respective areas for past oral histories. The Liberian center will be the repository for all new oral histories collected by the Liberian History Project, with Indiana University personnel participating in training the oral history collectors.
The research link between Indiana University and Liberia reaches back at least to the 1930s when George Herzog, founder of the IU Archives of Traditional Music, made recordings on the southeastern coast of Liberia. Other Indiana University scholars who have studied aspects of Liberian history, culture and politics extensively include J. Gus Liebenow, George Brooks, Ruth Stone and Liberian Amos Sawyer, as well as Liberian graduates Agnes von Ballmoos, Cyrenious Forh, Augustine Konneh and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley.
Sawyer now heads Liberia's Governance Commission, and Konneh is co-chair of the Liberian History Project. Wesley, a poet, professor and author, took part in the organizing conference for the Liberian History Project.