Anthropology graduate student Erin Segura awarded LEH Rebirth Grant to digitize collection of 113 vulnerable Louisiana French recordings

The “Louisiana French Oral Histories: témoignages du passé, tremplins vers l’avenir” project began in Summer 2020 as a means to preserve a collection of student-led interviews with native Louisiana French speakers and make them accessible to the public. Support from LSU’s Department of French Studies, LSU Libraries T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History (the Center), the LSU ASPIRE program and La Fondation Richard Guidry funded the transcription and translation of 31 interviews as well as the website on which they are hosted. An LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences Strategic Excellence Award additionally funded the transcription of 34 interviews in Summer 2021, soon to be featured on the website, which was officially launched during Vermilionville's September 4 "A Celebration of French in Louisiana." 

Recently, retired LSU instructor Amanda Lafleur entrusted our team with her collection of approximately 350 student-led interviews with native Louisiana French and Kouri-Vini speakers conducted between 1998 and 2016. This collection contains a multitude of knowledge, both linguistic and cultural, which we are excited to discover and share. Many of the recordings are contained on vulnerable formats such as VHS and audio cassette. Thanks to a 2021 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) Rebirth grant, we will be able to : 

1)  digitize the 113 most vulnerable recordings, to be preserved in perpetuity at the Center, the largest and most comprehensive Oral History repository in our state. 

2) add these estimated 85 hours’ worth of recordings to our existing website, which can be found here :

3) promote the project to the public via a panel discussion featuring previous interviewees as well as former student-interviewers and LSU Louisiana French instructors. 

Because the number of French speakers in Louisiana has drastically plummeted from one million, according to the 1970 United States Census, to today’s estimate of fewer than 100,000, it is more essential now than ever that we make heritage language resources such as these accessible to the public. We hope that this project will inspire Louisianians not only to learn their heritage language, but also to develop projects of their own to help restore the French language in our state. 

Funding for 2021 Rebirth grants has been administered by the LEH and provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the NEH Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) initiative. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

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