Monday, May 28, 2007


Making Sense of Oral History

…offers a place for students and teachers to begin working with oral history interviews as historical evidence. Written by Linda Shopes, this guide presents an overview of oral history and ways historians use it, tips on what questions to ask when reading or listening to oral history interviews, a sample interpretation of an interview, an annotated bibliography, and a guide to finding and using oral history online.

Baylor University Institute for Oral History

Since 1970, the Institute has created oral histories that document personal experience of historical significance. The Institute has developed a strong reputation for its outreach to the wider multidisciplinary community of scholars by providing leadership, education, and research opportunities.

Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory

The Center for the Study of History and Memory began its existence in 1968, when the "Oral History Project" was founded by Oscar O. Winther as an initiative to collect the history of the University itself. The enormous potential of oral history as a research and pedagogical tool was quickly apparent, and the project expanded as other research studies were added to its growing archive. The center's mission encompassed archival, pedagogical, and research goals in the field of oral history, with particular emphasis on the history of Indiana and the Midwest.

Oral History Techniques: How to Organize and Conduct Oral History Interviews

( from the Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory)

The Texas Historical Commission

Fundamentals of Oral History is part of the Texas Preservation Guidelines series. It offers suggestions on how to arrange interviews, structure meaningful questions, set up equipment and organize information.

Southern Oral History Program Guidebook.

A comprehensive introduction to critical aspects to oral history fieldwork. The Guidebook includes a full complement of resources to assist in the design, execution, and processing of oral history interviews. Excellent "how to" manual.

Columbia University Oral History Research Office

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest organized oral history program in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains nearly 8,000 taped memoirs, and nearly 1,000,000 pages of transcript. These memoirs include interviews with a wide variety of historical figures. Some interviews, conducted in the late 1940s, contain recollections dating back to the second administration of Grover Cleveland. An interview with Charles C. Burlingham conducted in 1949 opens with a discussion of the drafts riots during the Civil War.

Library of Congress American Folklife Center

The Archive of Folk Culture mainly consists of the collections of the American Folklife Center. It was originally founded as the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library in 1928. In 1978 it became part of the American Folklife Center and was subsequently renamed the Archive of Folk Culture. Today the Archive includes over two million photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and moving images. It consists of documentation of traditional culture from all around the world including the earliest field recordings made in the 1890s on wax cylinder through recordings made using digital technology. It is America's first national archive of traditional life, and one of the oldest and largest of such repositories in the world.

American Folklife Center’s “Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques”

Oral History Association

The Oral History Association, established in 1966, seeks to bring together all persons interested in oral history as a way of collecting human memories. With an international membership, the OHA serves a broad and diverse audience. Local historians, librarians and archivists, students, journalists, teachers, and academic scholars from many fields have found that the OHA provides both professional guidance and collegial environment for sharing information. In addition to fostering communication among its members, the OHA encourages standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, dissemination and uses of oral testimony. To guide and advise those concerned with oral documentation, the OHA has established a set of goals, guidelines, and evaluation standards for oral history interviews. The association also recognizes outstanding achievement in oral history through an awards program. Awards are given in the categories of publications, nonprint media productions, teaching , and oral history projects.

The Oral History Association’s list of Oral History Centers on the Internet


A network for scholars and professionals active in studies related to oral history. It is affiliated with the Oral History Association. It includes an Oral History email list serve/online discussion as well as numerous excellent weblinks.

Oral History Society (UK)

The Oral History Society is a national and international organisation dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral history. It encourages people of all ages to tape, video or write down their own and other people's life stories. It offers practical support and advice about how to get started, what equipment to use, what techniques are best, how to look after tapes, and how to make use of what you have collected. Offers comprehensive how-to resources.

American Century Project

This project provides students the opportunity to further uncover the American Century through interviews with individuals who helped shape or witnessed events or periods that form the American experience. Students are required to interview a nonfamily member about a particular period or event of the American Century. The project allows students to probe deeper into a content area of their choosing while at the same time utilizing many of the skills used by historians. In order for students to become excited about history, they must see the relevancy of the past to their own lives. Oral history provides such an opportunity as students go into the “field” and, as oral historian Studs Terkel once said, they uncover the “living repositories of our past.”

Oral History in the Classroom

An oral history project allows students to become a producer of historical knowledge rather than a passive absorber of historical information. Oral history can be effectively integrated into a wide range of courses across all disciplines as a means to assess both skills and content while at the same time empowering students with their own learning. A fundamental goal of this web site is to not only make accessible the rich archives of student oral history projects to a world wide audience but to also provide educators an opportunity to reinvigorate the teaching of history through the integration of an oral history project into their classroom. In consideration of the time constraints placed on teachers, as well as the need to meet state and national standards, this site provides all that is needed to implement and conduct an oral history project. All that is left is to find enthusiastic students who want to participate in the preservation of history; such students invariably exist in each of our classrooms or programs.

September 11th 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office [OHRO], in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy [ISERP] at Columbia University, has undertaken a major oral history project on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. More than 300 audiotaped interviews have been conducted with a wide variety of people who were directly and indirectly affected by the catastrophe. Many of the interviews were conducted within six to eight weeks of the attacks, in order to document the uniqueness and diversity of experiences of and responses to the catastrophe as close to the events as possible.

Talking History

A production, distribution, and instructional center for all forms of "aural" history. Our mission is to provide teachers, students, researchers and the general public with as broad and outstanding a collection of audio documentaries, speeches, debates, oral histories, conference sessions, commentaries, archival audio sources, and other aural history resources as is available anywhere.

The Journal for MultiMedia History

A journal of history that uses hypertext and multimedia technologies to merge audio, video, graphics, and text into a form that can only be communicated on the World Wide Web (WWW) or on CD-ROM/DVD mediums. So much of what we were doing as professional historians seemed so isolating that we wanted to "get out on the Web," to reach not only academicians, but an entire universe of interested readers. We wanted to bring serious historical scholarship and pedagogy under the scrutiny of amateurs and professionals alike, to utilize the promise of digital technologies to expand history's boundaries, merge its forms, and promote and legitimate innovations in teaching and research that we saw emerging all around us.

Readings and Practicum in Oral and Video History

An online course syllabus by Professor Gerald Zahavi of the University at Albany-State University of New York. This is a full-semester course and very comprehensive.

“Oral History: From Sound to Print and Back Again”

Article (in pdf format) by Donald A. Ritchie

in The Organization of American Historians’ MAGAZINE OF HISTORY • SPRING 1997

Baltimore Voices

1978 Baltimore neighborhood oral history project and documentary theater production. Archive held at the University of Baltimore Langsdale Library Special Collections

The American Folklife Center Online Collections and Presentations

Access to selected portions of the collections. Online content may include audio samples of music and stories, digital images of rare letters and photographs, and video clips.

An Oral History of Rhode Island Women during World War II

A number of transcripts available for online reading:

Archives of American Art, Oral History Collections

This site offers transcriptions of more than 180 interviews with a variety of artists, including Louise Nevelson, Robert Indiana, Richard Diebenkorn, and Rube Goldberg. Projects include Texas and southwestern artists, Northwest artists, Latino artists, African-American artists, Asian-American artists, and women in the arts in Southern California. This site also include transcripts for more than 50 of the 400 interviews conducted in the 1960s as part of the “New Deal and the Arts Oral History Program.”

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938

A collaborative effort of the Manuscripts and Prints and Photographs Divisions, this site has more than 2,300 first person accounts of slavery. The narratives were collected as part of the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Project Administration, and they were assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. Each digitized transcript of a slave narrative is accompanied by notes including the name of the narrator, place and date of the

interview, interviewer’s name, length of transcript, and cataloging information.

Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive

This Web site offers 125 oral histories relating to the civil rights movement, drawn from the University of Southern Mississippi Center for Oral History Collection. The site features interviews with civil rights leaders such as Charles Cobb, Charles Evers, and Aaron Henry. It also offers oral history information about prominent figures on both sides of the civil rights movement, such as “race-baiting” Governor Ross Barnett, national White Citizens Council leader William J. Simmons, and State Sovereignty leader Erle Johnston. Each interview file includes a longer (250-300 word) biography, a list of topics discussed, a transcript of the interview, and descriptive information about the interview, the interviewer, interviewee, and topics, time period, and regions covered.

Oral History Online!, Regional Oral History Office (ROHO)

This site offers full-text transcripts of more than 55 fully-searchable interviews, with plans to add oral histories on Black Alumni at the University of California. Current offerings include “The University History Series” focusing on the Free Speech Movement, “The Suffragists Oral History Project,” including the words of twelve women active in the suffrage movement, “Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement,” “The Earl Warren Oral History Project,” and “Health Care, Science, and Technology,” featuring interviews regarding the medical response to the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco from 1981 to 1984.

Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II

These oral history interviews record the memories of men and women who served overseas and on the home front during World War II. The archive contains more than 160 full-text interviews, primarily of Rutgers College alumni and Douglass College (formerly New Jersey College for Women) alumnae. Rutgers undergraduates conducted many of the interviews. The easily navigable site provides an alphabetical interview list with the name of each interviewee, date and place of interview, college of affiliation and class year, theater in which the interviewee served, and branch of service, when applicable. The list also provides “Description” codes that indicate the nature of the interview contents, including military occupations (such as infantry and artillery members, nurses, navy seamen, and engineer corps) and civilian occupations (such as air raid warden, student, clerical worker, and journalist).

History Matters

A project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning of the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Designed for high school and college teachers of U.S. History survey courses, this site serves as a gateway to Web resources and offers unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents and threaded discussions on teaching U.S. history.

The Centre for Popular Memory

The Centre is based at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. We focus our activities both on and off campus and we are committed to using oral history, visual history and digital archiving to contribute to social development and democratization.

Technical Information

Library of Congress, American Folklife Center’s Caring for Your Collections offers

advice on the care of books, photos, videos, and other media in your collections. Here’s the page about audio/video materials:

The Oral History Association’s Oral History Evaluation Guidelines. Everything you need to know about standards, ethics, protocols and general conventions of doing oral history.

Equipment and storage media resources. For archival quality CDs, buy gold dye HHBs or Mitsui brand. These are available at various on-line sources and at B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio Corp [], BSW [], Bradley Broadcast [], Sweetwater [], and Full Compass [])

Links to Audio Available on the Internet

The audio accessible on these sites varies from lengthy to very brief. Some sites lead you directly to the audio, while with others you have to go digging. There is a fair amount of interconnectedness among sites, as is the case with most websites on the same subject. This is a very small subset of the many, many places on the internet where audio and oral history is available and more are coming online every day. You will be able to access audio much more easily if you have a high-speed internet connection but you should be able to get to some of these even with a dial-up connection.

The Veterans History Project site now has 1,321 stories online, many of which include audio interviews, photographs, diaries, letters and other materials, consisting of more than 60,000 online items. Since the launch of this site on Memorial Day 2003, the Veterans History Project has been selecting stories to illuminate certain themes and making them available online. Past themes have included D-Day, prisoners of war, life-altering moments and military medicine. The latest addition of stories focuses on “VE” and “VJ” (Victory over Europe and Victory over Japan), highlighting personal accounts from veterans recalling the hours after the announcement of the end of World War II.

The Vietnam Project at Texas Tech University

In 1999 the Vietnam Center initiated the Oral History Project. An element of the Vietnam Archive, the mission of the Oral History Project is to create and preserve a more complete record of the wars in Southeast Asia by preserving, through recorded interviews, the recollections and experiences of the men and women who participated in these wars, as well as those military and civilian personnel involved in activities surrounding the wars on the homefront. The Archive believes that the history of the wars in Southeast Asia is not complete without the inclusion of the voices of the men and women who were involved in the wars.

After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor presents approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States. On December 8, 1941 (the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), Alan Lomax, then "assistant in charge" of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), sent a telegram to fieldworkers in ten different localities across the United States, asking them to collect "man-on-the-street" reactions of ordinary Americans to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States. A second series of interviews, called "Dear Mr. President," was recorded in January and February 1942. Both collections are included in this presentation. They feature a wide diversity of opinion concerning the war and other social and political issues of the day, such as racial prejudice and labor disputes. The result is a portrait of everyday life in America as the United States entered World War II.

Duke University, American Communities: An Oral History Approach
African American Experiences in Durham, North Carolina

Students in the American Communities seminar interviewed African American elders in Durham. They worked with staff and faculty at Duke's Center for Documentary Studies and the Center for the Study of Black History. The website includes biographies of the interviewees and interview excerpts.

The Whole World Was Watching: an Oral History of 1968

…is a joint project between South Kingstown High School and Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group. The project was sponsored by the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities and NetTech: the Northeast Regional Technology in Education Consortium. The resource contains transcripts, audio recordings, and edited stories of a series of interviews conducted in the spring of 1998.

American Slave Narratives:

HBO website for Unchained Memories program:, click on “audio narratives” in left side menu, then click on one of the three listed (name and length of audio)

index of narratives:

Transcript and audio clips from interview with former slave:

Library of Congress, Voices from the Days of Slavery

The Black Oral History Interviews, 1972-1974

consists of interviews conducted by Quintard Taylor and his associates, Charles Ramsay and John Dawkins. They interviewed African American pioneers and their descendents throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, from 1972-1974. Since it seemed that few blacks left a written record of themselves, important information was passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth. Topics discussed in the interviews include early black settlers, job opportunities, social life and community, living patterns, black churches, and black political involvement from the late 1800s through 1974. Most of the interviews follow a standard set of questions.

Sparrow’s Point Steelworkers

Sparrows Point is a promontory jutting into the Chesapeake Bay east of Baltimore, MD. In 1887, Frederick Wood, working with an industrial combination of The Pennsylvania Steel Co. and the Bethlehem Iron Co., began the construction of the enormous works that would first become Maryland Steel and subsequently Bethlehem Steel. From its opening in 1890 until today, the works have been a major industrial producer in the Baltimore area. This project tells the story of these steelworkers in a unique way: through oral history interviews, photographs and music.

Studs Terkel’s Website

Studs Terkel's multifaceted life has produced an equally rich and varied legacy of research materials. He is best known as a radio network personality and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books. His award-winning books are based on his extensive conversations with Americans from all walks of life that chronicle the profound and often tumultuous changes in our nation during the twentieth century. On "The Studs Terkel Program", which was heard on Chicago's fine arts radio station WFMT from 1952 to 1997, Terkel interviewed Chicagoans and national and international figures who helped shape the past century. The program included guests who were politicians, writers, activists, labor organizers, performing artists, and architects among others. Terkel is remarkable in the depth of his personal knowledge of the diverse subjects explored on his program and his ability to get others to talk about themselves and what they do best. Many of the interviews he conducted for his books and for his radio program are featured here.

Historical Voices

A substantial portion of our cultural heritage from the 20th century is recorded in enormous collections of spoken-word materials. Yet much of it may be lost or remain hidden away in archives and private collections, making the voices inaccessible to students, teachers, scholars, and the general public. The purpose of Historical Voices is to create a significant, fully searchable online database of spoken word collections spanning the 20th century - the first large-scale repository of its kind.

Library of Congress’ American Memory Project provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

The British Library Sound Archive

Te British Library Sound Archive is one of the largest sound archives in the world. Opened in 1955 as the British Institute of Recorded Sound, it became part of the British Library in 1983.

Early Voices

The inaugral gallery for Historical Voices, Earliest Voices is a multimedia site presenting some of the most significant voices captured during the first fifty years of sound recording, 1877-1927. The late nineteenth to early twentieth century was a period of tremendous technological progress, and politicians and orators quickly took advantage of these innovations. In 1888, Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, delivered a heady proclamation. He declared that sound-recording would ensure that the words of statesmen could be "multiplied a thousand-fold" and "be transmitted to prosperity, centuries afterwards, as freshly and forcibly as if those later generations heard his living accents." Nearly a century after the recordings of prominent speeches from this period were made, this gallery perhaps sees the culmination of Edison's vision.

Traders: Voices from the Trading Post

Upon occasion, a library or archives is provided with generous funding to collect, preserve, and disseminate a significant body of material. The United Indian Traders Association (UITA) Legacy Project proved just such an opportunity. As part of the project, NAU conducted 45 oral history interviews, designed a World Wide Web exhibit (, and produced an educational, multimedia CD-ROM. "Traders: Voices from the Trading Post," focuses on late-nineteenth-century and twentieth-century trading posts in the Four Corners region, encompassing the Navajo and Hopi Reservations.


  • Sommer, Barbara W., and Mary Kay Quinlan. The Oral History Manual. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002.
  • Ritchie, Donald A. Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide. New York: Oxford University Press, Second Edition 2003.
  • Allen, Barbara, and William L. Montell. From Memory to History: Using Oral Sources in Local Historical Research. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1981.
  • Baum, Willa K. Oral History for the Local Historical Society. 3rd ed., rev. Walnut Creek, Calif.; AltaMira Press, 1995
  • Davis, Cullom, Kathryn Black, and Kay McLean. Oral History: From Tape to Type. Chicago: American Library Association, 1977.
  • Ives, Edward. The Tape Recorded Interview. 2nd ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1995.
  • Ives, Edward and Jackson, Bruce. The World Observed: Reflections on the Fieldwork Process. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
  • Baum, Willa K. Transcribing and Editing Oral History. Walnut Creek, Cal.: AltaMira Press, 1991.
  • Dean, Pamela; Toby Daspit, and Petra Munro. Talking Gumbo: A Teacher's Guide to Using Oral History in the Classroom. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, 1998. With companion instructional video.
  • Ericson, Stacy. A Field Notebook for Oral History. 4th ed. Rev. by Troy Reeves. Boise: Idaho Oral History Center, 2001. To order, phone 208/334-3863.
  • Sitton, Thad, O. L. Davis, Jr., and George Mehaffy. Oral History: A Guide for Teachers (and Others). Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.
  • Yow, Valerie Raleigh. Recording Oral History: A Practical Guide for Social Scientists. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications, 1994.
  • Armitage, Susan H., Patricia Hart, and Karen Weathermon, eds. Women's Oral History:The Frontiers Reader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
  • Dunaway, David K., and Willa K. Baum, eds. Oral History: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. 2d ed. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 1996.
  • Frisch, Michael. A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.
  • Gluck, Sherna Berger, and Daphne Patai. Women's Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History. New York: Routledge, 1991.
  • Grele, Ronald J., ed. Envelopes of Sound: Six Practitioners Discuss the Method, Theory, and Practice of Oral History and Oral Testimony. 2d ed. Chicago: Precedent Publishing, 1985.
  • Perks, Robert, and Alistair Thomson. The Oral History Reader. New York: Routledge, 1998.
  • Portelli, Alessandro. The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories. Albany: Sate University of New York Press, 1991.
  • Schneider, William. So They Understand: Cultural Issues in Oral History. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2002.
  • Thompson, Paul. The Voice of the Past: Oral History. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Interviewing Guidelines and Tips

There is no one right way to do Oral History. Besides the fact that it is a fairly new field, it encompasses human beings talking about their life experiences which is probably the most varied subject there is! The points below are ones generally agreed upon but there will always be exceptions. So use your own knowledge, intuition and creativity in approaching your project.

  • Research your topic ahead of time! Find out as much as you can beforehand. Make a list of possible areas of conversation, but do not formulate exact questions, as the conversation may unfold in ways you cannot predict.
  • It is often useful to have an informal pre-interview conversation (often on the phone) to give the narrator an idea of what you would like to hear about. This can get them thinking in advance. Ask if they have any photographs or objects related to the topic which might offer additional dimension to the conversation. Photographs and objects are often powerful stimulators of memory.

  • The narrator should be fully informed as to the nature of the interview, what its purpose is and why you feel that her/his life and experiences are important. Take time to answer any questions they have as it will result in greater comfort and openness in the long run. Have them sign the release form ahead of time. If you conduct more than one interview session, get a release at each session.

  • Record your “oral tape label” before arriving for the interview.

  • If at all possible, interview only one person at a time. In some cases it may be advantageous to include two people but more than that results in a confusing recording. It easily becomes difficult for the listener to tell which person is speaking. If you interviewing two people at once, you will have to spend time arranging the microphone at a distance from each so the recorder picks up fairly equal sound levels. You should do a test recording using headphones.

  • Choose as quiet a spot as possible. Be aware of extraneous noise that will be picked up by the microphone--chiming clocks, phone, traffic outside a window, humming of appliances, clatter of dishes, et cetera. Try to minimize these noises as much as possible without totally rearranging the environment in which the interview is taking place.

  • Eye contact and open, attentive listening are the core of the oral history interview. You may be very conscious of the tape recorder but the interviewer should feel they are talking to you. You are a participant in the interview. Acknowledge your listening by means of silent encouragement--nods, smiles, et cetera--short phrases of understanding and pertinent questions. Your questions should also be recorded, but try hard restrain the natural impulse to make vocal responses such as “uh-huh” “yes” “oh” “mm-hmm” etc.

  • Be aware of the narrator's race and economic background and of culturally determined characteristics. Avoid assumptions.

  • Formulate questions broadly, “Why,” “How did you…” What kind of…” “Tell me about…” “What was that like?” “What did you mean by…” Try to get as specific and personal as possible. You want to know about the narrator’s experiences, not so much their factual knowledge.

  • Ask narrator to spell names of any people, places, organizations, etc. mentioned. Even if the name sounds simple and common, you never know if the spelling may be unusual or the speaker is mispronouncing it.

  • Do not interrupt the narrator. Allow pauses and silence to be. Sometimes the most important information comes after the speaker has a moment to think. Silence can often be the most powerful incentive to speak.

  • Do not offer your own opinions. You never know when you might be closing a door forever. Be sensitive and flexible while staying with your purpose and gently keeping the conversation on course. Each interview will be different. The interview is a dialogue but it shouldn’t be a social occasion.

  • Try to avoid information being made "off the record," or switching the recorder off and on. Assure the narrator that sensitive information may be identified after they have shared it and designated as restricted after the interview is over.

  • Ninety minutes is a good average length for an interview. Both interviewing and being interviewed are tiring, and concentration diminishes if the interview is too lengthy. If it seems there is much more ground to cover, you’re better off arranging another meeting to continue.

  • If possible, get permission for a follow-up contact, either on the phone or in person to clarify points, fill in some glaring blanks, correct spellings, etc. Often the first interview opens up areas previously hidden and research after the interview brings up additional important questions.

  • Try to gather information for a broader record than just your immediate project. The interview may be of interest to future researchers for purposes which are impossible to know. Depending on the subject, you might even consider depositing your tapes in an appropriate library or archives. This serves two purposes: one, it makes the interviews available to a wide audience, and others can verify your uses of oral sources.

· Before you turn off the recorder, be sure to ask, “Is there anything else you think I should know or would like to tell me or talk about?” You never know what people haven’t said just because you didn’t know to ask!

After the interview

  • Punch out record protect tabs to guard against accidental erasure.
  • Label the recorded media as soon as the interview is over with as much information as can fit onto the label. You never know when recordings may become separated from the associated documentation. Include the names of the narrator and interviewer, date and place of interview, project title (or institution). If you used more than one tape, make sure to number them in sequence.
  • If at all possible, duplicate your original recording promptly. The originals can then be stored, reducing danger of accidental erasure or damage.

Express Scribe Transcription Playback Program

This excellent program is free, easy to use and extremely helpful in making transcription faster and easier without buying any new equipment. It is installed on the typist's computer and can be controlled using the keyboard. The manufacturer offers it free hoping to also sell the associated hardware. You do NOT have to buy the hardware to use and benefit from the free software. For detailed description, instructions and to download, go to:

Transcribing Style Guide from the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University

Sound Recording Tips

  • Be familiar with your equipment and test it before each use. Be prepared to adjust your setup so that the narrator can sit wherever is most comfortable. Bring extension cords if you plan to use A/C current to power your recorder. If you must rely on battery power, have extra batteries. Have the recorder conveniently located near you so that you can easily turn over or change tapes.

  • Take extras and spares whenever possible: cables, extension cords, blank recording media, batteries, electrical adapters, as well as odds and ends such as: pens, notepad, duct tape, paperclips, rubber bands, twist-ties, napkins or paper towels and handi-wipes,etc.

  • Always wear your headphones while recording. If you don’t you will be amazed at what sounds show up on the tape that you either didin’t hear or just didn’t pay attention to during the interview. We are programmed to tune out all but the most intrusive extraneous sounds when conversing. But when you listen to a tape, there may be rustling papers, tapping on the table that picks up through the mic stand, cable-handling noise, etc.

  • Take your time to set recording levels carefully.

  • Be careful about using the “pause” button. The machine is still using power and if you’re using batteries they are getting used up. Be sure to listen to “tape” not “source” through your headphones.

  • Keep your equipment and recording media away from large metal objects and magnetic sources including motorized equipment, computers, stereo speakers and amplifiers.