Oral Histories

We are often asked how to start an oral history program or perhaps how to interview a grandparent.

As historians, we want to encourage oral histories as part our research but they are hard to arrange and it sometimes takes time to develop interviewing skills and relevant questions so the interviews stay focused.

There are a few good books on the subject and the Northwest Oral History Association maintains a good list of web pages for more examples of projects and how to information.

The key points are

  1. Make sure you have permissions signed for the appropriate use of the interview, ie. can they be broadcast or published, used in exhibit captions, or just preserved.
  2. In spite of new digital technologies, it is always useful to transcribe them, a daunting task for the casual interviewer.
  3. Do as much research about the person as possible to be prepared with good questions that make the interview a worthwhile effort.

Other sources:

Another FAQ concerns converting existing old analog cassette tapes to digital. Please share if you have some good information. Here is one good source about this type of project from the Florida Voices program.

-Karen Prasse, League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations