Pilot Interview Feedback

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.

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First Interview Reflections

Last week, we conducted our first test interview and we learned a lot from it. Some minor details about lighting and camera angles could be improved along with microphone strategies and simply leaving the camera on after the interview has ended.

We discussed better possible questions and how we could help the interviewee remember more. Asking more warm up or memory jogging questions would help the interviewee open up and discuss her life in greater detail.

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Understanding Transcription

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).

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Understanding Metadata: The Basics

One of the most challenging aspects of archiving information is knowing how to enter the metadata used in large online library collections. Metadata is difficult to understand because it is written in a complicated manner and used for many functions by databases. In this blog post, I will answer three main questions. First, what is metadata?

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Technology Problems Addressed

As technology advances, the recording of oral histories has changed as well. While oral history is one of the most ancient forms of collecting information, the digital age has revolutionized the process of collecting and archiving oral histories. With the utilization of the internet, oral histories are now more available for dissemination than ever before. However, ease of access does not come without new challenges.

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How to Conduct a Successful Interview

When you Google “how to conduct an interview”, a thousand lists of Dos and Don’ts shows up and it can seem overwhelming. How am I supposed to keep track of a camera, a microphone, asking the right questions, making sure my interviewee isn’t fatigued, pointing out contradictions, and eighty other things? It’s impossible to do all of that juggling, so for this blog post I simplified the compiled list of notes I took into two main ideas.

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What does ‘oral history’ mean for our project?

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.

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