Exploring The Collections: Oral History

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

This month, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Oral History Collection. Ever since the blog first started back in 2013, interviews have been a key component of the research that I have done. For the first couple of years, I conducted several dozen interviews, about half of which were done over the phone. Unfortunately, due to a technical issue (let's be honest, it was a cat that knocked a cup of coffee on my laptop) almost all of these early interviews were lost. Since that whole mess, I've been really good about making sure anything digital is backed up regularly on flash drives. 


There are currently just under twenty interviews in the Oral History Collection, including several with late ISU Historian, Judge and Referee Benjamin T. Wright, who was a walking encyclopedia of skating knowledge in his mid nineties. There are also conversations with Olympic Medallists Paul Wylie and Debbi Wilkes and World Medallists like Lorna Dyer, Gary Visconti and Warren Maxwell. Other interviews include conversations with the relatives of champion skaters who have sadly passed away and a lengthy conversation with Sharon Cohen, the founder of Figure Skating In Harlem

Often when I'm interviewing someone, the focus on a specific topic but as we get to talking the conversation flows and other stories come up. Not not everything that we discuss always makes it into the blog that I'm speaking to them about, so if you're doing research on a topic a skater I might have interviewed is related to, I'm happy to re-listen to the interviews and see if they yield any information that may be helpful to you.

The Oral History Collection is one that will inevitably continue to grow as I continue to write, so stay tuned to Skate Guard's Collections page to see who I've been chatting with. If you'd like to make a donation to the Collections, feel free to reach out!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.