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Oral History Workshop. History 300B March 9, 2009. Center for Oral & Public History California State University, Fullerton http://coph.fullerton.edu/ . 9/11, war . Event Evidence Survival Repositories Access. Newspapers, diaries, photographs. Fires, floods, thrown away.

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oral history workshop

Oral History Workshop

History 300B

March 9, 2009

slide2
Center for Oral & Public History

California State University, Fullerton

http://coph.fullerton.edu/

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9/11, war

Event

Evidence

Survival

Repositories

Access

Newspapers, diaries, photographs

Fires, floods, thrown away

Archives, libraries, museums, person collections

Must be available

what is oral history
What is Oral History?

Valerie Yow: Oral history is the recording of personal testimony delivered in oral form.

Donald Ritchie: collection of spoken memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews.

From Internet (Answers.com): Historical information, usually tape-recorded or videotaped, obtained in interviews with persons having firsthand knowledge.

Terms often used interchangeably with oral history: self-report, personal narrative, life story, memoir, life testament.

Other terms used: life history, recorded memories, life review. (implies someone else involved)

why is oral history important
Why is Oral History Important?
  • historical documents and books can't tell us everything about our past.
  • often concentrate on famous people and big events, and tend to miss the ordinary people living ordinary lives.
  • Neglect people on the fringes of society, e.g., the poor, disabled, ethnic communities.
  • Oral history fills the gaps and gives voice to history that includes everyone.
oral history and memory
Oral History and Memory
  • Remembering – Constructing Narratives from our Memories
    • Even young children create stories from their memories
    • Psychologist David Rubin shows that most people begin reminiscing in their forties.
    • We remember what is important to us.
  • Memory – Fallible or Trustworthy?
  • Aging and Memory
  • Consistencies in Feelings
  • Individual Memory v. Collective Memory
  • Whenever memory is involved, we need to ask: by whom, in what context?
legal stuff
Legal Stuff
  • Copyright
    • Who owns the material?
    • Legal agreements
  • Libel
    • Libel is the published statement that is false and that is intended to harm a person’s reputation.
    • Cannot libel someone who is deceased.
  • Slander
    • Defamation that is spoken.
  • Anonymity
    • Make copy of tape and include pseudonym
  • Ack! What if they won’t sign the release?
a few more forms
A Few More Forms
  • IRB
  • Deed of Gift
  • Restriction Agreement

(we’ll talk about these a little bit more as they appear in the packet.)

ethics and privacy
Ethics and Privacy
  • No taping without narrator’s knowledge
    • Recording without narrator’s knowledge is invasion of privacy
    • Doesn’t hurt to get narrator’s permission on tape
  • Explain why and how oral histories will be used
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep
  • Interviewers and transcribers must understand: this is confidential until completed.
  • Remind narrators that information will be made public
    • Revealing too much about personal life
    • Revealing too much about ANOTHER person’s life
before you proceed
Before You Proceed
  • Acquaint yourself with Oral History Association
  • Check out other professional organizations
  • Work with instructor or supervising entity
  • Read, read, read!
preparing for oral history project
Preparing for Oral History Project
  • Do your homework – Research!
    • Are there similar projects? Are we offering new information?
  • Conceptualize the project
    • What is it that we wish to accomplish? Focus
    • How do we finance this project? This interview?
    • Interviewing, Transcribing, Archiving
interview steps
Interview Steps
  • Identify narrators
    • Letter of introduction
  • Research
    • People’s lives do not take place in a vacuum
    • Prepare for pre-interview
  • Develop questions/outline
  • Recorders - Equipment
equipment
Equipment
  • Analog tape v. digital files
    • Magnetic tape still viewed as most stable
    • Commitment to digital files
  • Recorder
  • Microphone
  • Tapes
preparation is the key
Preparation is the Key
  • Equipment
  • Questions/outline
  • Directions
  • Release forms
  • Prompts
  • Review your checklist
  • Know your narrator
agreement form s
Agreement Form(s)
  • Do YOU understand it?
  • Can you explain it?
  • Keep it visible
  • Ask narrator to sign AFTER interview
more forms
More Forms!
  • Labeling Cassette
  • Creating Field Notes
  • Creating Tape Log
and still more
And, Still More!
  • Deed of Gift
    • Understanding nature of use
  • Restriction
    • What’s reasonable?
    • Role of rapport
    • “It’s just my family.”
developing questions
Developing Questions
  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • How
  • Why
  • How did you feel?
format
Format
  • Introduction – on tape
    • Narrator name, interviewer name, date, where interview is taking place, project name
    • Verbal agreement
  • Biographical sketch
    • Parents, earlier years, schooling, adulthood
  • “Meat” of the interview
  • Closing remarks
    • “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
questioning
Questioning
  • Opened-ended v. closed-ended questions

 What do you remember about your grandparents?

 What was your grandfather’s name?

 What kind of reception did the Cambodians receive when they moved into town?

 Was there prejudice against Cambodians moving to your town?

more questions
More Questions
  • Childhood
  • Teens
  • Family
  • Military
  • Vocation
  • Marriage/Family
  • Religion
  • Attitudes/beliefs
  • Retirement
  • Historic events
  • Folklore, superstitions, customs, holidays, celebrating
post oral history what do we do now
Post-Oral HistoryWhat do we do now?
  • Publications
  • Theatrical productions
  • Museum exhibits
  • Document events, businesses, community
  • Identify artifacts and photographs
  • Add to the historic record