Tabernacle Memories and Meanings an Oral History Project

In my last post I mentioned that I am working on my continuing education by volunteering at the George Sutherland Archive at Utah Valley University. At the archive I have had the opportunity to learn different aspects of working in an archive and last January I assisted in transcribing interviews about LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) tabernacles located in Utah. This project is being conducted by Ron Smith Ph.D. with grants from the Utah Humanities Council and Utah State History.

Admittedly I had never done any kind of transcription before, but the history and people in the interviews proved intriguing to me. My undergraduate work is in history and while it is concerned mostly of England and Europe I am an admitted history geek. Other personal interests include everything from the known humanities to the cosmos and a penchant for sociology from my mother. I am only to guess, but I think this is what pulled me from my childhood dreams of merely being a librarian to the archival profession.

This particular project involved Dr. Smith’s interest in the question “What does the tabernacle experience and building mean to those who use them?” The answer was gathered from oral history interviews with various persons who had or continue to have a relationship with a LDS tabernacle in their communities.

I myself transcribed several interviews concerning the second area of concentration for Dr. Smith involving tabernacles in South Central Utah.  These included interviews about tabernacles in Vernal, Spring City, and Manti. As I went through the interviews I spent a lot of time on Google cross checking names, spellings of words, and getting visual images of the towns where the tabernacles were located, as well as the tabernacles themselves. I admit I probably got off track a little, but I wanted to make sure that Smith received as much correct information as possible, especially the names.

As an aside I found enough information from one particular interview that I was able to determine one of the interviewees was in the same high school class as my father. Small world.

As all projects do this particular one came to fruition this past Friday, June 8, 2012. Dr. Smith made a presentation of his findings on Tabernacle Memories and Meanings: South Central Utah including tabernacles in American Fork, Provo, Heber City, Vernal, Spring City, and Manti at the UVU library, hosted by the library and the archive. It was a joy to be able to help in the hosting and to see the stories and memories presented in the lecture.

One of my favorite stories even made the lecture. This particular story involved a custodian’s attempts to cull banister sliding at the Manti Tabernacle by the use of barbed wire and included a picture of the banister taken by one of the worst offenders. Undoubtedly through my personal experience with the transcription the lecture proved the answer to Dr. Smith’s question was that tabernacles are a central part of the community’s lives and that any loss was and still is inherently felt.

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