Oral History Project Essay Example

Hi I have to write a 2000 word essay. I interviewed a retired primary school teacher and now I have to write an essay on how I approached the person and contacted them regarding the interview and place the experiences in context with research on teacher training and the gender difference in society in the 1950's in Ireland.

I have only just started but I'm not sure about the introduction.Could somone have a look at it and maybe give me a few ideas. Thanks


Introduction?

Through the course of this project I was required to interview a retired principal about her educational experiences, career as a teacher and teaching life. I then placed the experiences of this individual within the context of social, economic and cultural changes during this period. I could have chosen a few different themes to work with from this interview but I chose the themes teacher training and gender difference. As the individual didn't willingly like to be recorded, I wrote the conversation on paper which can be seen in the appendix.

The person interviewed will be regarded as Mrs. X in this report and the educational experiences described in the interview will not be named for confidentiality reasons.

I contacted Mrs. X by posting her a letter and consent form with a stamped self-addressed envelope for returning, asking would she be willing to contribute to my research project by letting me interview her for one hour, regarding her life in primary school, her teacher training experience and working as a primary school teacher. I informed her that I would like to tape the conversation for my own purposes and that the conversation would be confidential I also enclosed a list of questions that I wanted to discuss so in the interview she would be aware of the questions I wanted to ask even though I did inform her I probably wouldn't ask all of the questions. On receiving the consent form, the individual had enclosed her telephone number so we could arrange a time to suit us both. I telephoned her and we arranged to meet on the 3rd of November 2006 at her home.

I need to hand in this essay by Monday so if anyone could help as soon as possible it would be greatly appreciated

We will review your essay within 20 hours or less - as always! :) Thank you for your patience.

EssayForum.com

Greetings!

Nice to see you back again!

This sounds like an interesting project. Let's take a look at what you have so far:

"Introduction?"

Yes, indeed, the first paragraph is an introduction. No question about it. :-) From there on, you're into the body of your text.

"I could have chosen a few different themes to work with from this interview but I chose the themes teacher training and gender difference."

I recommend inserting a semi-colon after "interview", dropping "but" an inserting "of" after "themes."

"As the individual didn't willingly like to be recorded, I wrote the conversation on paper which can be seen in the appendix."

How about something like: "Since [or, As] this individual was not willing to be recorded, I transcribed the conversation, which can be seen in the appendix."

"The person interviewed will be regarded as Mrs. X in this report and the educational experiences described in the interview will not be named for confidentiality reasons."

Do you mean the location of the educational experiences will not be revealed?

"I contacted Mrs. X by posting her a letter and consent form with a stamped self-addressed envelope for returning, asking would she be willing to contribute to my research project by letting me interview her for one hour, regarding her life in primary school, her teacher training experience and working as a primary school teacher."

This needs to be condensed a little. How about saying ". . . a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. I requested a one-hour interview regarding her teacher training experience and life as a primary school teacher."

"I informed her that I would like to tape the conversation for my own purposes and that the conversation would be confidential I also enclosed a list of questions that I wanted to discuss so in the interview she would be aware of the questions I wanted to ask even though I did inform her I probably wouldn't ask all of the questions."

I think you're missing some punctuation here. You need a period after "confidential", and the second sentence could use tightening up: "I enclosed a list of questions and informed her I would be choosing some of them for discussion in our interview."

"On receiving the consent form, the individual had enclosed her telephone number so we could arrange a time to suit us both. I telephoned her and we arranged to meet on the 3rd of November 2006 at her home."

"The individual" sounds very clinical, which is fine if that is the tone you want to establish. Personally, I would prefer to use "Mrs. X," but that may not be your choice. :-) Actually, on second look, the paragraph needs some clarification: "Mrs. X [or, The individual] returned the consent form along with her telephone number, and we arranged to meet on the 3rd of November at her home."

OK, you're off to a good start! I'll be looking for more posts as you work!

Sarah, EssayForum.com

Thanks so much for your response. I have edited the first part like you suggested so this is the next part that I have wrote. In methadology part of the essay I have to provide two quotations which I ahve included and then a short biographical account and then set the life in context-life and policy interweaved. This part is confusing me and even though I have books to use to reference the two themes I dont know what i should be including. Its due tomoro so i really dont have much time so any suggestions and editing would be appreciated.

On the 3rd of December at 1.00 p.m. I called to Mrs. X to conduct the interview and we sat in the lounge and I started by asking her questions about her primary school experience. I asked open ended questions so I would not be soliciting any bias answers and also allowed her to elaborate if she wanted to.

'A second conception of the interview is that of a transaction which inevitable has bias, which is to be recognised and controlled'.(Cohen)
As well as this listening to her response and preparing the next question. If I felt we were losing track of the initial interview discussion, I just fell back on the question sheet I had prepared. After a brief few minutes The individual started to feel at ease and more relaxed as Ken Howarth in The Oral History Handbook calls the 'Warming up period'. Even thought she wasn't being recorded, I think because I wasn't rushing her to answer questions and sticking rigidly to every single question, she was more at ease to answer and recall her experiences.

Biographical account

Mrs. X was born in Cork in the 1940's and a few years later the family moved to Tipperary Town. Her background was very disciplined, her father was a sergeant and her mother was very musical.

She attended the convent primary school which was run by the Sisters of Mercy and she remembers the teachers were very strict. There was corporal punishment in the school but she doesn't ever remember being slapped. There was no formal uniform.

In 6th Class she received a scholarship in the Primary Cert to go to St. Anne's secondary school where she received her Intercert. After the Intercert she went to a boarding school in Doon. There was eighteen children in the class there. She was taught Irish, Mathematics, English, History, Geography, Latin, Domestic Science, physiology and Christian Doctrine. The priest would visit to give an oral exam on the Doctrine. All of the subjects were taught through Irish except for History and Geography. Girls didn't do Honours Mathematics and boys didn't do domestic Science.

Husband did all of his subjects through Irish.

Honours Irish was a requirement for the teacher training course and needed 2,000 marks to get a good job.

Teacher Training 1958-1960

They had a choice of doing a 3yr course In Trinity college in Dublin City but Mrs. X went to Mary Immaculate College in Limerick City and boarded there. Most pupils didnt go to Trinity as it was too expensive.

Had to pay fees of 64 pounds a year and extras.
The I.N.T.O was complaining about the preparatory schools as they felt it was unfair that pupils who went to these schools had a unfair advantage over pupils who completed their Leaving Certificate and who were trying to gain access to the teaching colleges.

All nuns lecturing and they would inspect the cleaning

Sewing was every evening for half an hour and they had a Easter Oral Sewing Exam which included hemming, cross stitching, Running, Back Stitch, Blanket stitch, French seam, Fell seam, hedgetear, Woolen patch, Darn, Knit heel of a sock.

Lot of music =piano, choral work, voice training, Ballroom dancing, Tango
All letters were opened, in and out. They were given at 8.30 in the evening when they were doing sewing.
Silence was emphasised in the corridors and there were penalties if caught talking which was a week without being allowed to talk. Nuns watched at top and bottom of stairs to enforce the rules.

They were allowed a visit one Sunday a month.
Had criticism lessons or demonstrations in the main hall on a Friday afternoon every week or every two weeks. All the lecturers sat on the stage and the students sat in rows against the walls of the hall. The student who was doing the lesson stood in centre and a primary class was brought in for the lesson to be practiced on. When the children left, the lecturers then proceeded to tell you what you had done wrong.

This was a negative approach though it helped in some way and was done in every subject. The directions had to be given in Irish and communicate to class in Irish.

They had a Cert for Christian Doctrine (Like Dip. Religion now)
As Mrs. X was in the Teacher traingin college from 1958 till 1960, the marraige ban that had come into effect in 1932 didnt restarin her as this decision was removed from the code in June 30 1958 by Minister Mr.Lynch and had been operative since July 1, 1958.

Hello again!

I'll need to look at your essay in two different posts, so please bear with me!

"On the 3rd of December at 1.00 p.m. I called to Mrs. X to conduct the interview and we sat in the lounge and I started by asking her questions about her primary school experience."

How about changing this to two sentences: "On the 3rd of December at 1.00 p.m., I called on Mrs. X to conduct the interview. We sat in the lounge, and I started by asking her questions about her primary school experience."

"I asked open ended questions so I would not be soliciting any bias answers and also allowed her to elaborate if she wanted to."

Insert a hypen in "open-ended." "Bias" needs to be "biased". I would end this sentence there, then continue: "This method also allowed her . . . "

"'A second conception of the interview is that of a transaction which inevitable has bias, which is to be recognised and controlled'. (Cohen)"

You might want to check your quotation; it probably says "inevitably" rather than "inevitable." Also, the period needs to be moved to after the citation. If you are citing in MLA format, you need to add the page number of your quotation (don't use a comma between the author's name and the page number). If you are using APA or some other format, you can let me know and I'll look up the rule.

"As well as this listening to her response and preparing the next question."

Hmm . . . I'm not sure of your meaning. Are you trying to say that you would listen to her response and then choose the next question based on what the response had been?

"After a brief few minutes The individual started to feel at ease and more relaxed as Ken Howarth in The Oral History Handbook calls the 'Warming up period'."

If you want to say "the individual" rather than "Mrs. X", use a small "t." :-) I would end the sentence at that point, then start a new one: "Ken Howard, in The Oral History Handbook, calls this the 'warming up period.'" Notice that the period needs to go before the quotation mark. (Just as an aside, you may notice that I use the double quotation mark; that's just the difference between British [pardon me, Irish] and American English.) Again, if you are writing in MLA format, you will need to cite the page number of your quotation in parentheses, with the period following.

"Her background was very disciplined, her father was a sergeant and her mother was very musical."

Use a semi-colon rather than a comma.

"There was corporal punishment in the school but she doesn't ever remember being slapped."

Insert a comma after "school."

"In 6th Class she received a scholarship in the Primary Cert to go to St. Anne's secondary school where she received her Intercert."

Insert commas after "6th Class" and "school."

"There was eighteen children in the class there."

Use "were" rather than "was", since "children" is plural.

"She was taught Irish, Mathematics, English, History, Geography, Latin, Domestic Science, physiology and Christian Doctrine."

I think that "Physiology" should be capitalized, since all the rest are.

"The priest would visit to give an oral exam on the Doctrine. All of the subjects were taught through Irish except for History and Geography."

I would say "in Irish" rather than "through Irish"--unless that's the idiomatic way to say it on your side of the pond. :-)

"Husband did all of his subjects through Irish."

Insert "Her" before "husband."

"Honours Irish was a requirement for the teacher training course and needed 2,000 marks to get a good job."

I would say "in order to get a good job."

All right, that takes us about halfway through. I'll be "back in a few," as we say over here. Hang tight!

Sarah, EssayForum.com

Thanks for that!That part is the biography part u were correcting and they r bits i had transcribed from the interview but do u think this is a good biographical account or do i need more?

the criteria wants me to write a short biographical account worth 5% of the essay and then setting the life in context -life and policy interweaved.this is the part im confused about!!!

Greetings--I'm back!

OK, let's finish:

"They had a choice of doing a 3yr course In Trinity college in Dublin City but Mrs. X went to Mary Immaculate College in Limerick City and boarded there."

I would specify who "they" are; "Education students", perhaps? "In" doesn't need to be capitalized, but "College" does. Also, spell out "three-year" and insert a comma after "Dublin City."

"Most pupils didnt go to Trinity as it was too expensive. Had to pay fees of 64 pounds a year and extras."

I see three problems here: you need an apostrophe in "didn't", you need to insert a comma after "Trinity," and your third sentence is incomplete. How about: " . . . expensive; students had to pay . . . "

"The I.N.T.O was complaining about the preparatory schools as they felt it was unfair that pupils who went to these schools had a unfair advantage over pupils who completed their Leaving Certificate and who were trying to gain access to the teaching colleges.

All nuns lecturing and they would inspect the cleaning"

First, you need a period after the "O" in "I.N.T.O." As to the rest: the first sentence is too long, and the second is incomplete and unclear. Let's see . . . how about: "The I.N.T.O. complained that the graduates of preparatory school had an unfair advantage over pupils . . . " I'm not sure what the nuns have to do with this. Oh, I think I see--you're describing life in the prep schools, is that correct?

If that's the case, then you need to introduce that topic. Maybe, "Life in the preparatory schools was strict and regimented." Or something like that. You can tie that in with Mrs. X's upbringing, since you said her father was strict.

Back to the nuns: "The nuns inspected the pupil's dormitories [or classrooms--whatever Mrs. X told you] for cleanliness, and gave stern lectures if conditions didn't meet their expectations." Is that close to what you meant? Going on:

"Sewing was every evening for half an hour and they had a Easter Oral Sewing Exam which included hemming, cross stitching, Running, Back Stitch, Blanket stitch, French seam, Fell seam, hedgetear, Woolen patch, Darn, Knit heel of a sock."

How about: "Every evening, the pupils received sewing instruction; an oral sewing exam every Easter included . . . " In the list, you only need to capitalize "French." Also, insert "and" before the last item.

"Lot of music =piano, choral work, voice training, Ballroom dancing, Tango"

Sounds like this came straight from your notes. :-)) Try: "There was extensive musical instruction in piano, chorus, and vocal training, as well as lessons in ballroom dancing and the tango."

"All letters were opened, in and out. They were given at 8.30 in the evening when they were doing sewing."

How about: "Pupils received their mail at 8.20 in the evening, during sewing instruction. All correspondence, incoming and outgoing, was inspected by the nuns."

"Silence was emphasised in the corridors and there were penalties if caught talking which was a week without being allowed to talk."

How about: "Silence was required in the corridors; students caught talking would be penalized by a week of enforced silence."

"Nuns watched at top and bottom of stairs to enforce the rules."

Insert "the" in front of "top," "bottom" and "stairs."

"They were allowed a visit one Sunday a month."

You need to specify that the students were allowed the visits. Otherwise, it sounds like the nuns were.

"Had criticism lessons or demonstrations in the main hall on a Friday afternoon every week or every two weeks."

You can insert "They" at the beginning of the sentence, since you just (I assume) changed the above sentence and mentioned the students. :-)

"The student who was doing the lesson stood in centre and a primary class was brought in for the lesson to be practiced on."

Insert "the" before "centre" and a comma after "lesson."

"When the children left, the lecturers then proceeded to tell you what you had done wrong."

It's not a good idea to switch point of view here to "you." Keep it in the third person and say, " . . . proceeded to tell the critic what she had done wrong." (I'm assuming this was an all-girl school.)

"This was a negative approach though it helped in some way and was done in every subject."

I would say, "Although this was a negative approach, it helped in some ways and . . . "

"The directions had to be given in Irish and communicate to class in Irish."

I'm not sure about this; are the giving of directions and the communicating to the class two different things? If so, I would finish the sentence: " . . . and communication to the class was in Irish, too."

"They had a Cert for Christian Doctrine (Like Dip. Religion now)"

"Like" doesn't need to be capitalized. I think you should spell out "Diploma" (if that's what "Dip." stands for). And you need a period at the end of the sentence.

"As Mrs. X was in the Teacher traingin college from 1958 till 1960, the marraige ban that had come into effect in 1932 didnt restarin her as this decision was removed from the code in June 30 1958 by Minister Mr.Lynch and had been operative since July 1, 1958."

Oops--you've got some typos. Check your spelling on "training," "marriage," and "restrain." You also need an apostrophe in "didn't," a comma after "her," commas on either side of the first "1958," and a space between "Mr." and "Lynch." I would end the sentence after this gentleman's name, since the rest restates what you just said.

I'm guessing that you wrote this last part in a hurry, is that right? :-) I understand, believe me!

As for your question about context: I'm not much more clear about what they want than you are, but I would assume that you're supposed to tie Mrs. X's current teaching practices to her educational background. For instance, does she run a strict classroom because of her strict training, or does she go in the opposite direction? How much Irish does she speak to her pupils? Does she include Irish stories and/or history? Are the sewing lessons still a part of the modern curricula (I hope not!), and if so, how does she feel about that? Does she think pupils today are too loud, compared with the relative silence of her schooling? I suggest taking each element that you have written about and asking yourself how Mrs. X is incorporating it (or rejecting it) in her classroom today.

I hope this has been helpful. Good luck, and best wishes!

Sarah, EssayForum.com

Hi thanks for your help again. Most of the biographical section came straight from the transcribed interview.They were her own experiences.The essay criteria wants you to set the life story in context -life and policy interweaved of teacher training and gender differences as themes.I got books from the college library on these subjects but im confused as to what parts i should be writing about.

The part you said about context i dont think they r looking for as it is a retired teacher i interviewedand she didnt really comment on her own teaching

Hullo--

Well then, maybe you can use her training experiences as a contrast to training today. You'd certainly find some differences! And you could use the all-girl school in the gender theme. If she said anything at all about how she ran her classroom, I would include that.

I'm guessing that they want you to compare the modern day methods of instruction to those of the past. What is life like for education students today, compared to Mrs. X's experiences? The lifting of the marriage ban is one big difference for women (which also addresses the gender issue). Are more men getting into the profession nowadays? Are there salary differences between the sexes? Is teacher training more professional? Are practices like the criticism lectures encouraged or discouraged? Are music and dancing still taught?

Since your information is almost exclusively about teacher training, that's what I'd focus on.

Good luck!

Sarah

I realized as I was writing this that all the sewing and dancing--the girl stuff--might have occurred in Mrs. X's school days before she received teacher training. Or did she receive special teaching instruction at all? It may be that this will be clear to an Irish reader, but since I'm not familiar with the educational system there (especially in Mrs. X's day), I'm a little confused.

the sewing and the dancing was all the teacher training stuff.Because it was run by nuns and the priest interviewed the candidate for a teaching position it was all religious regiment, the church was in control at the time and sewing and music was part of the curriculum in schools and music is still there!

Yeah, I thought music might still be part of the curriculum (I took a class called Methods of Teaching Music when I was getting my degree), but I kind of doubted they still teach the tango. ;-)

It's a very interesting view of how times have changed!

Sarah

I wish we'd learned dancing when I was in school! I got stuck with Methods of Teaching Physical Education. :-(

Adding the additional details gives your paper more immediacy, in my opinion. I feel for Mrs. X; I wouldn't want to have been a student in her school!

Good luck with the essay. I wish I could give you more ideas on the context portion, but I'm pretty much tapped out. Take care!

Sarah

I have just added the gender difference theme. Does this make sense?Im not sure im hitting the difference properly?

Gender Difference

As already stated, the marriage ban was revoked by the minister Mr. Jack Lynch in 1958.The marriage ban was brought in, in 1932 requiring that all women teachers retire from teaching on marriage. This rule remained for twenty five years and when the rule was evoked the terms of revokement were sent to managers and teachers by the Department of Education. The I.N.T.O. were against this ban at the time of consideration, as in their opinion, as they stated' parents favour married women teachers' and 'the regulation will mean fewer marriages'. This ban was extensively argued and they brought it to the notice of various T.D.'s and other representatives to enlist support for opposition to the proposed ban ,but, in 1932, a letter from the Government informing of their consideration of the proposal still felt there was a need for the ban. The Government gave reasons for the introduction of the ban one reason stating ' the continuance of women teachers on marriage must mean some loss either to the school or to the home'. The Government saw women as inferior after they got married and envisioned that a loss would be made to the education provided. There were a lot of girls in the training colleges at that time who were concerned with their examinations and workload to have noticed what an impact this ban would have on them in their future careers. Their fate was determined for them before they had left the training college.

This ban penalized the young women teachers but they also started to penalize the older generation as well. The 1914 pension rule enforced the statutory age for retirement would be at age 60 for women teachers but in comparison allowed men to retire at age 65. A woman however could remain in the workforce until age 65 only if her service provided was efficient in these years. These two requirements on women teachers happened with five years; a relatively short space of time but in both cases it was a way of undoing the errors the Authorities had made with the overflowing supply of trained teachers entering the workforce and under demand of placements. The Authorities themselves were responsible for this lack of judgment and foresight thus penalizing the women teachers who deserved a long and prosperous career.

Is there anything i should add?

I think you've got it pretty well covered, although I'm certainly no expert on Irish educational policy history. :-) But yes, it does make sense, and I think this is probably exactly the kind of thing they are looking for in your essay. The part about the pensions is another good example of gender preferances.

I'd advise you to change "teaching on marriage" in the second sentence to "teaching when they got married." Otherwise, it sounds like they were banned from teaching the subject of marriage.

Be sure to read the whole essay out loud when you finish it, paying close attention to what you hear. That way you can catch any small errors that you overlooked when reading it, or any sentences that aren't quite as clear as you'd like them to be.

Hope this helps!

Sarah

I also could do with your advice on concuding the essay.Any ideas?

Well, the usual way to write a concluding paragraph is to restate your thesis, then sum up the points you have made in the body text, along with any solutions you may be able to offer, or suggestions for further research into the topic.

In this case, I believe your thesis was that educational training methods have changed considerably since Mrs. X's day, is that correct? You could then say something about how the situation is better now for women, and why; you could also mention how the strict schooling she received has been replaced by _______ (I'm not sure what, but I'll bet you know, since you're going through it!).

I don't know that this type of essay requires solutions or suggestions for further research, but you might say something about the general state of teacher education in Ireland ("Teachers today are fortunate that Irish teacher education has progressed in attitude and policy", or something like that).

Sarah

ok thanks. ill start with the conclusion with the tips you gave me. with the gender difference paragraph im not sure that I have got the adequate amount of info as im not describing anything about men but i cant seem to locate anything even on the net( which has scarce info about educational systems in Ireland) to add to the paragraph.

You can only include the things you can find. :-)

I hope this will go well for you. You've certainly put a lot of effort into it!

I'm retiring for the evening, but I wanted to wish you the best before I went. Take care!

Sarah



Designing an Oral History Project:
Initial Questions to Ask Yourself

by Doug Boyd

It is a great feeling when you commit yourself, your organization or your community to an oral history project.  It is a great privilege to record someone’s life story and a great responsibility to care for that story in a preservation environment.  We conduct oral histories, not for obscurity, but to eventually connect one person’s story to the larger historical narrative.  Part of what defines oral history projects are the questions asked during the interview.  However, you the project designer, have some questions to answer before even beginning.   Early choices you make in a project will affect later opportunities, for that is the nature of choice.  Decisions have consequences.  So, the following are a set of questions I encourage project designers to ask when embarking on their oral history adventure.

Why are you Doing This Project?

This is an important question to ask.  In fact, after some thought you may want to write it down.  This becomes your project mission or vision statement, which helps you to accomplish several things.  First, it keeps you on task for you now have a focus.  You could plan a project that interviews everyone about everything but that project will be unfocused and random and may never be finished, in fact it may never even begin.  Focus is crucial for a successful oral history project.  Each new interview will potentially open many new doors for your project and you will have to choose which ones to enter because time and resources are limited.  The even greater benefit of a project vision or mission is clarity.  Each person you interview will wonder to themselves, “why are you interviewing me,” and some will even ask you this directly.  It is vitally important to clearly communicate to the narrator or interviewee just why you are interested in their story.

Often an oral history project involves partnerships.  This mission needs to be coordinated by the partners in a project so that all of the partners are on the same page throughout the course of this project.

What is Your Desired Outcome From this Project?

The digital age provides major possibilities for disseminating your oral history project.  You will be able to have your interviews represented in some sort of cool production or publication online, accessible to the world, with just a laptop computer and a cup of coffee.   Although the final product of your project will be greatly defined by choices you make, the production should not be the project.   I have seen many impressive productions edited from oral histories whose producers paid little attention to the full interviews after the production is completed.  I urge you to consider your archival capabilities and options before considering the production.  Will you be doing your project for broadcast or production?  If so, make sure you are capturing your recordings in a format and a resolution that is appropriate for your desired outcome.  If the Internet is your desired delivery mechanism, this no longer means that lower resolution material is acceptable.  Capture your audio and video at the highest resolutions that you can afford to capture, you can always make lower resolution copies.  If the project is for broadcast, make sure the setting where you are conducting your interviews is also conducive to the delivery format.  Video interviews poorly lit or with a distracting background or audio interviews conducted in a restaurant, will both be difficult for the public to engage.  Design your project in accordance with your desired outcome, but do not forget the archival or curating phase of a project.

What Recording Equipment Will You Use?

This is a significant question that will create very specific and very different needs for successful completion.  These choices will also contain very different degrees of technical expertise throughout the collecting, curating, and disseminating phases of your project.  No matter if you choose audio or video, you will need to be “recording” audio.  Understand how microphones work and choose a microphone appropriate to your needs and to the interview context.  Will you need two lapel microphones or will you need a tabletop microphone?  Does the microphone you have work well with the recorder you are going to purchase?   A major consideration you will need to make is if you will be using professional or consumer equipment?  Professional equipment has greater capabilities to recorder a better oral history interview.  However, this is often accompanied by greater complexity, especially with digital video.   If you are not experienced with professional equipment you will need to actively seek out user-friendly equipment (which does not always equate to consumer level equipment), obtain appropriate training on your desired equipment, or outsource the recording process of your project.

Your choices will have major budgetary differences and create very different long-term archival challenges.  Do not underestimate the long-term cost of digital video, it can be significant.  Do not underestimate the power of an audio-only project, it can be very powerful in its potential impact.  Still, we are living in a video oriented culture and society.  In effort to facilitate your answer, I will present the question of recording audio or video with another question: Who will be your audience for this oral history project?

What are your budget Needs?

Oral History can be extremely expensive, but it can also be done with a basic audio recorder, video camera and time.  This question directly correlates to the previous question.  If you are conducting your project as part of a production, the project can be very costly.  An interview that looks “studio quality” was often conducted in a studio utilizing a trained technician using professional level equipment under carefully controlled lighting.  If this is the look that you desire, it may be more cost effective to outsource the recording of interviews to a professional.  As I have already asked you, will you be using consumer or professional-level equipment?  The line between professional or consumer equipment is blurred when it comes to digital audio, however, with digital video, the divide between consumer and professional-level equipment can have great budgetary consequences.

If you need to store your digital project on external hard drives or on a server, it can be expensive, especially if you are recording digital video.  If you are transcribing your interviews, it can be labor intensive and potentially, very expensive costly. If you are paying to have transcripts created, assume that someone should do a “quality control” check converting the “first draft” transcripts to a final draft.  First draft transcripts can contain numerous and potentially significant errors.

How will you be disseminating your project?  Will you need web space?  Will you need to design a website? Will you need software and hardware for your computer in order to convert your media into a format that is more web friendly? Thinking through the collecting, curating and disseminating phases of your project prior to beginning your project will greatly enhance your abilities to budget or fundraise for your project.

What is your level of technical expertise?

If you are not currently comfortable with current audio, video, or computer technologies, take the time to learn.  Attend workshops, read manuals, and practice.  Learn how to record, whether audio or video, the best signal possible.  You do not need expensive equipment but you do need to understand and know how to use your equipment.

Digital technology is amazing, however, it can also be very precarious.  You do not want to waste anyone’s time, money or precious recorded life story by losing or damaging a digital file/oral history interview due to your user error.  From the moment you press the “record” button on your recorder or camera, you become the curator of that digital object.  Understand how to best care for the digital object you have just created throughout the collecting, curating and disseminating phases of your project.  If you do not have the expertise, partner with someone who does.

Do you have enough Digital Storage?

Digital recording creates large digital files.  One hour of high-resolution audio can be 2 gigabytes.  One hour of high definition digital video can be 100 gigabytes per hour.  Be prepared to store whatever you collect and make sure that you have redundancy.  Make sure you have a storage plan prior to beginning the project.  Even if you partner with an archive, you may need to store your interviews locally before you transfer the material to the archive.  Make sure this is an adequate and stable environment.  See the next question.

Who is your Archival Partner/What is Your Archival Strategy?

If you do not have archival expertise, I highly recommend you partner with an archival institution who understands the intricacies of digital preservation of audio and video materials.  It is complex and expensive.  We no longer live in an era where you can record an interview, put it on a “shelf,” forget about it for 20 years, and expect to play it back.  Digital objects must be carefully curated as an ongoing process.  If you do partner with an archive, design your project so that it fits in with their workflows and protocols.  Find out if the archive you will be working with has a specific release form that you should be using.  This will simplify the process if addressed form the outset.

What Are the Legal and Ethical Questions You Should Be Considering?

A two-hour recording of a life history interview can contain a massive amount of personal information.  Have you considered implications of documenting and preserving these stories and making them publicly accessible?  Accessibility in a digital age equates to potential global distribution.  This can be fun with “viral videos” depicting silly mistakes or bad music videos.  There can be a serious downside to the text of a recorded expression of personal detail being indexed by Google within minutes of going online, thus becoming searchable worldwide.  Consider the access strategies of your project before embarking on your first interview.  Consider whether that access strategy that you have in mind for this project concurs with the content you will be collecting.  Are there any obvious ethical or legal challenges or implications that you anticipate with your project?

Remember that personal information is personal.  Make sure that your narrator or interviewee is giving informed consent to the recording of the interview and signs an appropriate release form.  Understand that an oral history interview creates a relationship between, not only the interviewee and the interviewer but also between the interviewee and the project.  This will carry on throughout the curating and disseminating phases of the project as well.  What will you need to do in project design to ensure that promises made are promises kept?

Are You Ready?

Finally, remember that no amount of digital technology for collecting, curating, or disseminating oral histories will make you a better interviewer.  Do your homework and research the topic you will be interviewing about.  Interviewing is not easy.  There are many books, articles and workshops dedicated to the topic of oral history interviewing.  Take advantage of these resources as best as you can.  As I stated in the introduction of this essay, it is a great privilege to record someone’s life story and a great responsibility to care for that story in a preservation environment. This is your project.  Make informed choices and design a project that is right for you, but remember, it is not your story that is being recorded or archived.  Most importantly, design a project that respects these life stories you will be collecting, curating, and disseminating.

Citation for Article

APA

Boyd, D. A. (2012). Designing an oral history project: initial questions to ask yourself. In D. Boyd, S. Cohen, B. Rakerd, & D. Rehberger (Eds.), Oral history in the digital age. Institute of Library and Museum Services. Retrieved from http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/2012/06/designing-an-oral-history-project/.

Chicago

Boyd, Douglas A. “Designing an Oral History Project: Initial Questions to Ask Yourself,” in Oral History in the Digital Age, edited by Doug Boyd, Steve Cohen, Brad Rakerd, and Dean Rehberger. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2012, http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/2012/06/designing-an-oral-history-project/

 

This is a production of the Oral History in the Digital Age Project (http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu) sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  Please consult http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/about/rights/ for information on rights, licensing, and citation.

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