Oral History (Not Dentistry History)

I recently went to a workshop on oral history and I would like to share some thoughts of this workshop.

We all have stories.  Telling these stories integrated with historical events is what oral historians strive for. The Oral History Association defines oral history as “a method of gathering and preserving historical information through recorded interviews with participants in the past and ways of life.”

Troy Reeves, the Head of Oral History Program at UC, conducted an educational and entertaining workshop.  He taught us how to perform a successful interview.  The interview was broken up into 3 stages: pre-interview, interview and post interview.

The Pre-interview consist of researching the subject and person that you want to discuss and meeting the “narrator” of the historical story.  Always test your equipment before the actual interview.  Get a “release form” for the “narrator” to sign.

The interview is the actual interview with a recording device, making sure that the environment is suitable both audible and visually.

The Post-interview may be the hardest step because this is the grueling work. This is the stage were you catalog the material, make either an index or transcription of the material. Deposit the material in some kind of receptacle (digital format, tape or HD). Sending a thank you card, with a note if there is anything else they would like to add. Offer them a copy of the interview.

These points were just an example of the material that was presented. He shared his tips and experience with us.   The one thing (out of many) that struck a note with me is the unexpected or the “real” story that may come out in the interview.  An oral historian isn’t like an investigative reporter.  An investigative reporter is there to get a story an Oral historian is there to get the entire story without editing it.

Here are links that will bring everything into prospective and compare UW and Midd.

Here is the University of Wisconsin Oral History’s Department. The UC Oral History department grew from a project into an actual department.


Here is a link to an oral history project on voices on their campus,


which I thought was similar to our digital lecture collection:


This is housed here: http://www.middlebury.edu/academics/lib/libcollections/collections/archivescoll

The UW’s library collection has oral historical interviews in their collections.


Please feel free to contact me (or leave a comment below) if you would like to discuss this anymore or have questions.


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