As any oral historian would contend, recording the life stories of interviewees is a process, a process which we had the privilege of piloting in early May. This pilot interview provided the opportunity to test our procedures and questions, while challenging us to troubleshoot along the way.
The list below outlines my reflections on the trial-run interview, which will enable us to refine the Project’s procedures for future interviews with English alumni:
- Record interviewees’ verbal consent at the beginning of the interview.
Scholar Henry Glassie describes an interviewee’s dictation of oral history as a process by which truth is constructed through recall and discovered:
“When [the interviewees] string facts into narratives, they will create something other than the factual past, if only by dint of omission, and the dynamics of presentation, but they do not do so to fool people but to help them by driving at a larger truth than that trapped in the factual scraps … their joy is finding, holding, manipulating truth” (Abrams 47).
As articulated in Lynn Abrams’s Oral History Theory, oral history is a creative, methodological tool of research that involves analyzing “not just what is said, but also how it is said, why it is said and what it means” (1). As a three-way conversation between the interviewee, researcher, and the culture introduced by their shared intersubjectivity, the practice of oral history refers to information and stories shared, in addition to the larger meanings created by interviewees through reconstructions of experience.