It’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday and Ianthe Metzger (COL ’12) is sitting in the semi-darkened Center for Social Justice, video camera in hand, interviewing a custodian on her 15-minute break.

“She just sat with me briefly and talked as the camera kept rolling,” Metzger said of the interview, which was conducted as part of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor’s Working Lives Oral History Project.

The project, which launched in fall 2012, aims to record the lives of D.C.’s workers through video interviews.

“The history of workers in D.C. is largely untold, and it seems to us it’s a history that should be uncovered, so we started this project to investigate and explore the experiences of the people who clean the buildings and guard the museums and serve the food here,” Jennifer Luff, the research director for the Kalmanovitz Initiative, said.

The edited interviews will be uploaded to a public website, which Luff hopes to establish by next fall.

The goal of the first set of interviews was to gather a history of the Justice for Janitors campaign, a1990s initiative that sought to unionize janitors in D.C., including those who worked at Georgetown.

Students in Luff’s class last spring semester interviewed about 30 people involved with the campaign, from janitors to political leaders. This semester, the class’s work has broadened to include employees from more venues on campus.

Luff said that the project greatly relies on students in the “Working Lives: Theory and Practice of Oral History” course. They are responsible for deciding questions to ask the interviewees, conducting interviews in the field and editing footage.

Metzger is one of the five students currently enrolled in Luff’s class. In addition to the CSJ custodian, she has also interviewed an employee in the financial aid department.

“It was great to see how people see Georgetown from the staff perspective, and not just the student and the faculty,” she said. “These are the people who make Georgetown actually run.”

Metzger said that the interviews have influenced the perspective through which she sees how events impact different groups in society.

“We’ve had a lot of Leo’s workers interviews. … The campaign was just completed and the contract ratified, so all the interviews focused on that a lot,” Metzger said. “It was really interesting to hear the workers who were really heavily involved talk about how much their lives would change.”

According to Metzger, the project serves to infuse recorded history with human emotion.

“History, regardless of who writes it, is a really biased thing, but with oral history you give that person the agency to tell it as they see it,” she said. “History is very based in fact, so with oral history you get at the emotional significance of events rather than just the historical significance, what something meant to that one person.”

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