MOHA Roundtable Presentation

Roundtable Discussion: The Michigan PBB Oral History Project: Four Perspectives on the Benefits (and Challenges) of Collaborating to Make History from Memories 

Roundtable Abstract: In 1973 one of the largest episodes of food contamination in U.S. history began to unfold in Michigan. The Michigan Chemical Company (owned by Velsicol Chemical Corporation) in St. Louis, Michigan, accidentally shipped a fire retardant (polybrominated biphenyl or PBB) in place of a livestock-feed additive to state feed mills. Thereafter, PBB entered into the human food chain via contaminated farm products and exposed millions of Michiganders. The Michigan PBB Oral History Project* documents the history of the PBB mix-up through interviews with community members—farmers, chemical workers, Pine River residents, consumers, public officials, researchers, and activists. This roundtable presentation will explore the multifaceted and collaborative components of the Michigan PBB Oral History Project from the perspectives of an oral historian, archivist, graduate student assistant, and graduate researcher to highlight the opportunities and challenges of collaborating to document, preserve, and interpret community memories.

  • “‘These stories, they stick with you’: The Michigan PBB Oral History Project”
  • “Preserving PBB Community Stories: A Graduate Student Assistant’s Perspective of the Michigan PBB Oral History Project”
  •  “Contaminated Consumption: The Forgotten History of PBB in Michigan, 1973-2019”
  • “PBB in the Archives: Challenges and Advantages in Building a Manuscript Collection to Support the Michigan PBB Oral History Project”


Q&A Session

Facilitated by Camron Michael Amin, University of Michigan-Dearborn.