Oral History Resources

Commodore Casada, a 100-year-old Bryson City resident, interviewed at his home in 2009

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:

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:

About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on August 14, 2012, in collections access, public programs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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