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Many researchers and members of the public choose to conduct their own oral history interviews. While the reasons for this vary from genealogical to research purposes, those who do oral history recognize its significance in contributing to the historical record. This brief video from the Minnesota Historical Society explains the importance of conducting oral history interviews.
Minnesota Historical Society. (c. 2010). Why Do Oral History? Retrieved from http://education.mnhs.org/immigration/podcasts/1-why-do-oral-history.
Print Resources for Conducting Oral History Interviews
The print resources listed below provide more in-depth information than online resources on how to plan, conduct, and store oral history interviews.
Doing Oral History by Donald A. Ritchie
Publication Date: 2014-10-17
Doing Oral History is considered the premier guidebook to oral history, used by professional oral historians, public historians, archivists, and genealogists as a core text in college courses and throughout the public history community. This basic manual offers detailed advice on setting up an oral history project, conducting interviews, making videorecordings, preserving oral history collections in archives and libraries, and teaching and presenting oral history. The third edition asks new questions and augments previous answers with new material, particularly in these areas: technology, teaching, presentation, legal considerations, theory and memory, and internationalism.
This is a comprehensive, international anthology of major, 'classic' articles and cutting-edge pieces on the theory, method and use of oral history. The collection details issues in the theory and practice of oral history and covers influential debates in its development over the past sixty years. New chapters include: interview methods and the oral history relationship the use of testimony in truth and reconciliation politics memory and interpretation the digital revolution and new technologies for the creation, use and dissemination of oral history community oral history projects memory and history.
In The Oral History Manual, Barbara Sommer and Mary Kay Quinlan have designed a guide to help anyone interested in doing oral history research think like an oral historian. Written with direct, clear language, the manual offers step-by-step instructions, checklists, full-size reproducible forms, sample planning documents, project descriptions and summary sheets, sample materials, and extensive illustrations to help guide readers in taking ideas for an oral history project and turning them into a successful format.
How to Choose Oral History Equipment
Selecting the right oral history recording and transcription equipment can be difficult, but the resources below recommend affordable, reliable options for conducting and transcribing oral history interviews.
Compiled by oral historian Doug Boyd, this helpful guide provides information about different kinds of oral history equipment, taking into account cost, quality, specific features, and other technical aspects.
Provided by the Vermont Folklife Center this guide provides information on equipment used in conducting interviews.
Transcribing Oral Histories
After conducting oral history interviews, many oral historians choose to transcribe the audio in order to increase accessibility and ensure ADA compliance. The guides listed below detail how to transcribe the spoken word into written text. For information on transcription equipment, refer to the "How to Choose Oral History Equipment" section above.
This detailed instruction manual walks users through the steps of writing, editing, and formatting an oral history transcript, as well as creating summaries of each interview.
How To Conduct an Oral History Interview
This short video by the York Region District School Board provides a useful overview of how to conduct an oral history interview.
York Region District School Board. (2014). Conducting an Oral History Interview. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj_8gNZ0QJ66wWMcA6A84mA.
More Online Resources for Conducting Oral History Interviews
There are many digital materials dedicated to the topic of conducting oral history interviews. This list represents only a handful of them. Some resources provide simple, basic advice on how to conduct a single interviews, while others offer more in-depth advice on equipment selection, interview planning, and what to do with the interviews once you're done.
Written by the Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of History and Memory at Indiana University, this provides a great overview for how to prepare for the interview and ways to organize your materials after your interview.
The five videos in this podcast series from the Minnesota Historical Society detail why and how to do oral history interviews from setting up equipment, to creating a list of questions, to eliciting thoughtful responses from your interviewee.
Developed by historian and educator Judith Moyer, this is a a comprehensive guide that includes everything from planning and conducting an interview, to discussions of ethical, historiographic, and interpretive issues in oral history.
Release Forms and Legal Information
According to the Oral History Association, "oral historians have an ethical obligation...to ensure that the narrator's perspective, dignity, privacy, and safety are respected." The resources listed below provide additional information on understanding these ethical obligations including the topics of informed consent, crafting legal release forms, copyright, and protecting restricted interviews.
The Oral History Association's Statement on Ethics provides a brief, but important, overview about basic ethical considerations for oral historians, including preparing for, conducting, and preserving interviews.
The resource links on the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History include a sample oral history release form and an interview information form.
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. Resources. Retrieved from http://libraries.uky.edu/libpage.php?lweb_id=11&llib_id=13<ab_id=1369.
A Guide to Oral History and the Law by John A. Neuenschwander
Publication Date: 2014-10-14
According to the Oral History Association, the term oral history refers to "a method of recording and preserving oral testimony" which results in a verbal document that is "made available in different forms to other users, researchers, and the public." A Guide to Oral History and the Law is the definitive resource for all oral history practitioners. In clear, accessible language it thoroughly explains all of the major legal issues including legal release agreements, the protection of restricted interviews, the privacy torts (including defamation),copyright, the impact of the Internet, and the role of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). The book also provides more than a dozen sample legal release agreements that are applicable to a wide variety of situations. This volume is an essential one for all oral historians regardless of their interviewing focus.