Oral History Resources
Many North Carolina cultural heritage organizations have amassed collections of oral history interviews. Some of these, such as the “Stories of Mountain Folk” project housed at the Hunter Library, Western Carolina University, now offer online access. Others have selected manageable numbers from huge collections to post online. For instance, the Southern Oral History Program at UNC Chapel Hill maintains 4,000 oral history interviews. With IMLS grant funding, Southern Historical Collection staff are currently selecting 500 of these for digitization and online posting.
Digital technology presents plenty of opportunities and challenges for oral history collections. It opens up tremendous possibilities for access, even as equipment needs and preservation recommendations go through rapid obsolescence cycles. The Connecting to Collections online community recently featured a webinar on oral history projects with the latest techniques and advice. Click here for access.
According to Doug Boyd, Director of the Oral History Center at the University of Kentucky, important questions to answer before your project begins include: whether you want to include video and if so, how much and whether to transcribe interviews or not. In Boyd’s opinion, it is good to have short video components of lengthier audio oral history interviews. Boyd has found it to be most cost effective to leave full transcriptions to researchers and to index by topic as thoroughly as possible in house. The Oral History in the Digital Age website, which Boyd and colleagues developed delves further into these explanations and hosts a tremendous variety of resources for conducting and preserving oral history projects.
Additional oral history guides abound on the internet:
- If your volunteers will be conducting the interviews this is a nice, accessible source: http://dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/oralHistory.html
- For oral history beginners, the LOC Veterans History project has instructions, advice on equipment, and permission forms.
- StoryCorps’ Do-It-Yourself guide is a 4-page PDF that you can download.
- Other recommended sites for becoming familiar with oral history techniques include shoutlearning.org, oralhistory.org, and historicalvoices.org
Several books offer good background information on oral history projects. One of these is available for free through interlibrary loan from the State Library to any NC public library: Barbara Sommer and Mary Kay Quinlan, Oral History Manual NY: AltaMira Press, 2002 (GC 907.2 S697o)
Other books museum professionals have recommended in recent months include:
- Andrea Fontana and Anastasia H. Prokos, The Interview: From Formal to Postmodern
- Nancy MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive
- Don Ritchie, Doing Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2003
- Oral History and Public Memories, edited by Linda Shopes and Paula Hamilton (Temple University Press, 2008).
- Angela Zusman, Story Bridges: A Guide for Conducting Intergenerational Oral History Projects
Posted on August 14, 2012, in collections access, public programs and tagged Doug Boyd, Hunter Library WCU, oral history bibliography, Southern Historical Collection UNC, Southern Oral History Program, Stories of Mountain Folk. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.