Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Expands Woodstock Oral History Initiative

Committed to preserving the legacy of Woodstock, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts—the historic site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair—will once again be taking its Oral History Initiative from upstate New York, across the country. 

The project aims to obtain a deeper understanding of the counterculture of the 1960’s by documenting personal experiences. This round of the initiative will focus on stories about peace, resistance, and resilience. Bethel Woods is eager to hear from anyone who may have worked at Woodstock, served as a volunteer, or had interactions with any of the organizations who came to Woodstock to aid with the festival.

The nonprofit organization is also collecting stories about the wider social movements in New York City and the surrounding region. Significant partnerships with the American LBGTQ+ Museum and the Borsch Belt Marker project aim to collect stories from people who were on the front lines of justice and reform. 

Attendees can participate by recording their stories with curators of The Museum at Bethel Woods in locations across the country: 

  • Ft. Lauderdale/Boca Raton, FL: January 18-20
  • Orlando, FL: January 21-23
  • Tampa, FL: January 23-25
  • Boston, MA: March 11-12
  • New York City, NY: April 1-3
  • Santa Fe, NM: April 11-15
  • San Diego, CA: April 22-23 
  • Los Angeles, CA: April 24-29 
  • Several Places in New York in June and July – Stay Tuned! 

“At the Museum at Bethel Woods, we have a mission to preserve the lasting impact of Woodstock for years to come, which is why we are dedicated to safeguarding the stories of those who were part of the unique journey,” Neal V. Hitch, Senior Curator at The Museum at Bethel Woods, said. “Through the oral history initiative, we began collecting stories that were so much bigger. Our goal in 2024 is to create partnerships and reach into communities that have been historically underserved. We want to record the experiences of as many participants, attendees, workers, and volunteers from the era as we can, because we know they are slipping away fast. These narratives are invaluable in shaping and preserving the rich history and legacy of the ‘60s and through these partnerships our hope is that the stories can be shared to through as many outlets, exhibits, and programs as possible.”

The Oral History Initiative at Bethel Woods began in October 2020 and is a legacy of the pandemic. To date, 1,200 stories have been documented through the initiative. In 2023 alone, the Museum collected 300 new audiovisual interviews. The goal of 2024 is to add another 300 stories that increase the diversity of life perspectives and experiences.

This portion of the traveling Oral History Initiative is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and will focus on gathering stories from under-recorded voices—particularly those from diverse and disadvantaged communities–within the history of 1960s counterculture.

“We are honored to receive this grant from NEH, as part of its Cultural and Community Resilience Program,” Hitch added. “It has allowed partnerships with organizations that really expand the stories that we collect and will offer perspectives on peace, justice, and resistance that are integral to the legacy of the 1960s. Through this project, oral histories will provide a broader perspective on the effects and sacrifices made in pursuit of change and will be more accessible to everyone.” 

The Museum is committed to gathering at least 4,500 oral histories–roughly one percent of the estimated attendees–to collect and commemorate perspectives that round out the picture of the greatest festival of all time. To attend any of the above pop-ups, sign up by contacting OralHistory@BethelWoodsCenter.org. If you cannot attend one of these locations, you can still participate virtually by emailing the above.

About Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located at the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, is committed to building upon its rich history of peace and music by providing extraordinary experiences and access to the arts. With the belief that the world can be made better through the power of music and the arts, Bethel Woods makes music, visual, performing, and creative programs available and accessible to the community, helping people of all ages discover the arts and tap into their creative potential. 

Located 90 miles north of New York City in Bethel, NY, the 1,000-acre campus includes the Pavilion Stage amphitheater with seating for 16,000, an intimate 422-seat indoor Event Gallery, and a Conservatory for arts education programming. The award-winning Museum at Bethel Woods carries on the history, spirit, and learnings of the 1960s and the Woodstock Music & Art Fair through the preservation and interpretation of the historic site. Bethel Woods is a not-for­-profit organization that relies on the generous support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.

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