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Newton Talks

An oral history project for the city of Newton


To give voice to untold stories within our community, honor the experiences of our elders, and provide first person accounts of historical events for future generations.

Project Staff

Ilana Seidmann, Program Coordinator, Newton Senior Center

Elizabeth Lund, Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, Newton Senior Center

Clara Silverstein, Community Engagement Manager, Historic Newton

Sara Goldberg, Curator of Manuscripts & Photographs, Historic Newton

Lisa Dady, Director, Historic Newton 

Matt Hendrick, Public Services Librarian, Newton Free Library

Debbie Knapp, Senior Library Assistant, Newton Free Library

Kathleen Hennrikus, Senior Library Assistant, Newton Free Library

Why oral history?

Oral histories are rich sources of personal connections to historical forces. They bring depth to one’s understanding of the past by exploring experiences and movements at an individual level.  These histories collect the voices of common everyday people, not just those who will also make it into history books. Saving their stories is important to future generations’ ability to look back and understand what was happening and what people’s lives were like during a specific time period. Researchers rely on oral histories to write papers and books, but many people will listen simply to learn and connect. By using tools that are free to all, such as YouTube, Newton Talks will remain accessible to a global audience. Having such a wide audience can provide viewers with a different, more complex perspective on other people and events in history. At a local level, Newton Talks provides a significant opportunity to connect and communicate with community members about topics that are not easily broached in everyday conversations. Interviews draw out and preserve untold stories from people in our own community.

How did Newton Talks get started?

Newton Talks was created in December 2015 after then-Mayor Setti Warren expressed interest in more inter-departmental projects in the city of Newton. Historic Newton, the Newton Free Library, and the Newton Senior Center worked together to develop the idea for the project, and the first interviews were conducted in March 2016.

Interviews were initially conducted in phases, beginning with veterans who had a connection to Newton, and then relatives of veterans, immigrants, and long-term residents of Newton. In 2019, the project expanded to include a wider range of voices.  

Over the years, Newton Talks has fostered community partnerships across the city, including student groups at both Newton South and Newton North High Schools, local hospice providers, and Veterans Services. 

In December 2016, Newton Talks applied for a preservation grant for Veterans Collections, Monuments and Memorials from the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). Funding was awarded to the project in 2017, and allowed for transcription of veterans' interviews, restoration of select interview files, long-term storage of interview materials, and the purchase of a state of the art audio recording kit. 

As of 2019, over 50 interviews have been conducted, transcribed, and made available to the public through Newton Talks.