Chester Library Breaks New Ground with Multimedia Oral History Online Exhibit

Using postcards to focus on specific local sites, a novel online exhibit by Chester Library turns oral history on its head. The exhibit features videos starring lifelong Chester resident and retired plumber Herman Rademacher using his own postcard collection to talk about what Chester was like at the time of the images, and how it has changed over the years. To view the exhibit, click here.

“What I find significant about this exhibit is that it is unlike other oral histories. By pairing the short clips of Herman’s fascinating stories with images of the actual postcards he’s discussing, it allows people to experience Chester’s history in a new and different way,” says Library Director Lesley Karczewski. “The other element that is especially important is the accessibility of the online exhibit. Local History Librarian Debra Schiff, the exhibit’s creator, made a point of including PDFs of the video transcriptions and describing the videos and images of the postcards so that site visitors who use screen readers to access web sites also could experience the exhibit in a meaningful way,” she says.

In the fall of 2014, Rademacher brought his postcards into the Library after Schiff had created an online exhibit pairing his son Jack’s postcards with excerpts from local author Joan Case’s books on Chester. When he began telling lively and amusing stories with each postcard, she asked if he would allow her to record him on digital video for oral histories that would be shown online and shared with everyone. He enthusiastically agreed, and the result is the natural storyteller who is Herman Rademacher.

High-quality, printed enlargements of the cards also are available to view at the Library. Researchers interested in even more of Rademacher’s stories can visit Chester Library’s YouTube channel: to see additional video interviews not included in this exhibit.

The Local History Department of the Chester Library in Chester, New Jersey is a resource for reference and original materials that document Chester, Morris County, and N.J. history. The purpose of the Local History Department is to collect, preserve, describe, and make accessible these materials to the local community, as well as to visiting and online researchers.

The Chester Library serves the residents of Chester Borough and Chester Township, New Jersey. The library houses a collection of over 70,000 books, DVDs, CDs, video games, audio books and e-books. In addition, it offers a wide array of adult, teen and children’s programs, public computers, online research services and community meeting rooms.