“…Everybody’s story is unique, we all have our own individual stories…” – Denis Hodžić, 2016
Welcome to the online exhibit, A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green (Kulturno naslijeđe Bosanci u Bowling Green-u). Here, you will find the content that’s presented at the Kentucky Museum, along with expanded content, including clips from oral history interviews, as well as extras like photos and videos. Look for this symbol ◉ to guide you to the expanded content.
We carry our belongings with us as we move from place to place. Small or large, in a pocket or a suitcase, we bring the items we value with us. But we carry so much more than just physical objects. We carry our traditions and our stories. We carry our memories of the past and our hopes for the future.
In the mid-1990s, a war in Bosnia and Herzegovina forced thousands of people into an unthinkable position: either leave their homes in a hurry, or face certain death. For many, there was no time to plan; there was no time to pack. But the most important parts of identity do not need a suitcase. Alongside a few cherished objects, Bosnian refugees brought their traditional arts, customs, and language to Bowling Green during the late 1990s. For these first families and others to follow, their traditions found fertile soil in the surprisingly similar food, music, and hospitality of South Central Kentucky.
In 2015, twenty years after the Bosnian war, folklorists in the Kentucky Folklife Program and Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at Western Kentucky University began a collaborative project to document the oral histories of members of the Bosnian American community in Bowling Green. The stories you will hear in this exhibit come from those who have participated in this project. Their voices are just a few from our Bosnian community. The project is ongoing, and more voices and perspectives will join the oral history collection as time goes on. This exhibit offers a glimpse into the diverse experiences of our neighbors.
Neighborliness is an important value to Bosnians, and this is reflected in the traditions and arts of the community. Neighbors build community and traditions together. These close relationships make it all the more horrific when neighbors become aggressors and enemies, as they did during the Bosnian war. You should know that some of our neighbors’ stories are painful. Many of the objects on display may appear ordinary, but they serve as touchstones for the life stories of those who carried them.
What do our Bosnian American neighbors carry with them? Listen to their stories to get to know them and find out.
What is an oral history?
Folklorists and ethnographers use the oral history interview as a tool to better understand the experiences and cultural expressions that members of a specific community hold dear. Conducting oral histories with a wide variety of community members allows folklorists to gain a better understanding of the many traditional aspects of a group’s life. This may include oral tradition, material culture (including arts, architecture, and food), and beliefs and customs (both sacred and secular). Oral history interviews help folklorists learn about individuals’ first-person experiences. Taken together, these individual stories help us learn about a group’s collective story. The Bosnian Oral History Project, from which this exhibit has been created, is an ongoing research effort. We encourage all our Bosnian neighbors to share their own important stories with us.
About the Bosnia Oral History Project
In the Fall of 2015, with support from the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (now WKU’s Center for Citizenship & Social Justice), the Kentucky Folklife Program began the Bowling Green Bosnian Oral History Project in collaboration with members of Bowling Green’s Bosnian community and faculty from Western Kentucky University’s Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology. This ongoing project documents the stories of Bowling Green’s Bosnian community.
As part of the Kentucky Folklife Program’s on-going oral history project, the Kentucky Folklife Program is proud to present A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green (Kulturno naslijeđe Bosanci u Bowling Green-u). Open from September 29, 2017 through June 30, 2018 at the Kentucky Museum, this exhibit is produced in partnership with the Kentucky Museum and WKU Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology.
If you’d like to contribute an oral history to this project, send us an email using our online form. You can also contact us directly:
Bosnia Oral History Project Committee
Brent Bjӧrkman, Ann K. Ferrell, Denis Hodžić, Kate Parker Horigan, Senida Husić, Kenan Mujkanovič, Dijana Muminović, Nicole Musgrave, Mujo Music, Adisa Omerović Avdić, Nermin Peimanović, Amer Salihović, and Virginia Siegel
Denis Hodzic participates in an oral history interview on Western Kentucky University’s campus, November 2015.