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Creating Oral Histories

This guide offers general tips and resources for those interested in undertaking oral history projects

The Interview

  1. Begin with an introduction: At the beginning of the interview, introduce yourself, your interviewee, and explain the purpose of the interview. 

  2. Create a relaxed atmosphere: Foster a comfortable and relaxed environment to encourage the researcher to share their experiences openly. Let them know that there is no right or wrong answer and that you are interested in their unique perspective.

  3. Start with general questions: Begin the interview with broad questions about the interviewee's background and get a baseline for who they are.

  4. Ask specific research-related questions: Move on to more focused questions about their projects, methodologies, key findings and examples. If there are specific physical examples (like a piece of art or text) have them describe it in detail for the audience. Encourage the interviewee to elaborate on their experiences, challenges faced, and any significant discoveries or breakthroughs. 

  5. Explore personal anecdotes: Allow the researcher to share any personal stories or memorable moments related to their work or process. These anecdotes can provide valuable insights into their motivations, passions, and the human side of their work.

  6. Provide space for reflection: Towards the end of the interview, ask the researcher to reflect on their overall career and the impact they believe their work has had on their field or society. This can be a moment for them to share their thoughts on the future of their research area or offer advice to aspiring researchers.

  7. Thank the interviewee: Express your gratitude for their time, knowledge, and willingness to share their experiences. Let them know how much you appreciate their contribution to the oral history project.

  8. Follow-up and archiving: After the interview, transcribe and archive the interview recording for future reference. 

Remember to be an active listener during the interview, allowing the researcher to speak freely while respectfully steering the conversation to cover the key areas you planned. Flexibility is essential, as interesting tangents or unexpected insights may arise during the interview.

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