Oral Histories Funding Needs


Digital Video Preservation of Oral Histories

Amount Needed to process 100 oral histories: $20,000


Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s Oral Histories project preserves the stories of Spring Grove area seniors through digital video. Every year, some of our beloved senior community residents are lost. Giants of the Earth Heritage Center believes that our seniors’ personal stories are important, not only to listen to, but to preserve for future generations, because often the most personal of stories are also the most universal. Giants of the Earth Heritage Center has been actively interviewing these people about various topics related to growing up in Spring Grove, such as country schools, farming with horses, wartime experiences, the Depression, etc. While movies and television shows often create stereotypes and caricatures of people of different times, we have the opportunity to interview real people we know and ask what life was really like. Our oral histories will be real, providing important information to subsequent generations, helping them to better understand their parents and grandparents.

The Oral Histories project will benefit a large number of local and remote patrons who are interested in the history of our area. It will allow future generations to encounter our senior citizens, their forbears, in the time capsules it creates. Our goal is to capture 20 minutes to 1 hour of video for each senior in Spring Grove and, if possible, the surrounding area. We now have the equipment and facility to accomplish this goal. We have an immediate need for $20,000 to increase the number of staff hours that can be devoted to this project by individuals with the required technological skills.


We came together in 2006 as a group of people who started talking about the wonderful and intriguing local stories of those around us, especially the older folks. They made us want to know more!  We began meeting to discuss how we could preserve and gather this information. Our once-every-ten-year Homecoming was the following year and we prepared to begin filming those who cared to share local stories. We borrowed equipment from the school and used space that was loaned to us. We defined topics for discussion and we began taping oral histories. Later, we incorporated as Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Inc.  We established a Board of Directors and created a mission statement: “to honor, preserve and interpret the history and heritage of the people from Spring Grove’s Norwegian Ridge in SE Minnesota.”  We continued to meet and expanded participation in the Board. Our family tree has grown to include thousands of people in neighboring towns and we have recorded oral histories from people with roots in Houston, Fillmore, Allamakee, and Winneshiek Counties. Our vision grew to include a state-of-the-art genealogy center to bring families into connection with our area family tree, wherever they might live. Further, we created an extremely popular website over which we share our oral histories in several video and audio formats:  www.springgrovemnheritagecenter.org.

Our Oral Histories project arose out of a combination of a perceived community need and the unique opportunity to cost-effectively fulfill that need. The video technologies to make this possible only recently came into being, allowing professional editing on an amateur budget. Thanks to the diligent work of Georgia Rosendahl and other genealogists in the area, we also have our unique collaborative online family tree of more than 65,000 people that is able to serve as a framework for indexing, constructively organizing, and distributing our videos. Our collaborative family tree already establishes an internet presence for each senior citizen in our town to which we can link and present their oral histories.

Thus, the Giants of the Earth Collaborative Family tree, will provide permanent online links to the videos of our people, where these stories will never be lost, misplaced, or ruined by fire or flood, but will remain available to everyone. Generations from now, our great-grandchildren will be able to encounter their great-grandparents’ stories–our stories–through this interactive family tree.

Further, there is a huge online market for what we offer. We can document, using Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, that each month, over 12,000 people already use the online genealogical resources at our website, our Facebook pages, and our family trees at Ancestry.com. Based upon this evident demand for our heritage resources, our oral histories will immediately benefit a very large group of people, and will be used by future teachers and researchers as a primary source of local information.

Administration of the Digital Preservation of Oral Histories Project

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Inc. Board of Directors will approve the hiring of the staff for this project. Giants of the Earth has received the Guidestar Exchange Seal, demonstrating its commitment to transparency of programs and finances in support of its mission. Our Heritage Center has a newly remodeled first floor space in the Spring Grove Ballard House specifically dedicated to recording oral histories. Bill Fried, Dr. Johnathan Storlie, Mike Schmidt, Dr. Jim Gray, Katie Wiste, Kirsten Roble, Nicholas Bjerke, Lindsey Bratland and Logan Deschler have conducted video interviews on the topics of country schools, veterans’ stories, early farming life, Norwegian humor, etc.

To record, preserve, and edit these interviews we have already procured 24 TB of server space and we intend to increase this to over 100 TB in the upcoming years. We have procured a digital editing computer and software and we have begun the crucial process of editing the videos. However, editing videos takes technologically savvy, talented people. Such people are in great demand. We have learned from experience that for our oral histories project to be more than just a bunch of loose amateur videos, from which little useful footage can be gleaned due to audio or video inconsistencies, we must have disciplined and consistent adherence to professional video and audio protocols to maximize value to the variety of future audiences. This project requires our videographer to:  1) arrange interviews with our seniors on various topics; 2) professionally videotape the interviews with our area seniors using our two high definition video cameras and quality body microphones; 3)  organize and securely store redundant digital copies of the footage; 4) edit the footage into quality presentations; 5) publish these videos at cinema, high, and low resolution levels; 6) share these works with local and distant audiences through DVD movies; links in our online family tree profiles; heritage presentations at the local cinema; and through video podcasts over our online GiantsHeritageCenter YouTube channel. We have found that intelligent, hard working people can learn many of the skills through on-the-job training, and we hope to recruit these local individuals and train them in this skill, while paying them $10/hour. We have had the good fortune of utilizing talented interns from local colleges to produce some excellent videos. As a general rule of thumb, it takes 1 hour of videographer time to produce each minute of completed video. Thus, our videographers have already put in many thousands of hours of work into our videos.

If you would like to help us out with this important project, please donate using one of the options listed near the top of the sidebar and mention you want your donation to go toward our Oral Histories staffing needs.

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