Oral History Project (OHP)


Oral History Project: Overview” 

  • What is the project and why is it important?

Oral History Project: “Prep Work

  • What do I need to know to get started? How can I prepare for the project?

Project Template: *TEMPLATE (please make a copy before you start typing)

  • What is a standrad layout/format for the project? How can I organize my project? 

*You need to be logged in to your RSU19 Google account

Due Dates: “Semester 1 OHP Due Dates”

Resources: What do I need to do and pass in?

Resources for CMS Citations (Bibliography):

The Purpose of Oral History Interviews:

A former student best summed up the purpose of the Oral History Project: “[The Oral History Project] challenges you to go out into the community and discover stories of the past and bring them to light. [Oral History Projects] are about learning from others experiences.” The goal is to preserve personal stories and commemorate our veterans by saving, transcribing, and sharing their stories.

Oral History Interviews:

There are many ways to document and preserve families histories. One approach concentrates on the examination of public records, such as census records, wills, and deeds. Another approach focuses on the examination of various materials that are in the possession of family members, such as diaries, photograph albums, home movies, letters, and artifacts. A third approach is concerned with recording oral history interviews with family members about aspects of their lives and memories of other relatives and important events in their history.

Recording oral histories can be a very effective way of capturing information that is difficult to obtain by any other means. Oral accounts can serve to significantly complement other kinds of information. For example, a person being interviewed might tell the story behind a family event that’s captured in a photograph, and name the family members depicted. Recorded interviews also have the added value of capturing the interviewees’ voices and, if video recordings are made, those persons’ moving images, too. There is a thrill in listening to the actual voices and viewing the moving images of your own family’s elders.

Planning an Oral History Project:

1.  Determine the goals of the project.

  • What is the main topic or topics that you will explore?
  • What products will result from the project? For example, will your oral history recordings be used as the basis of a print publication, an online presentation, an audio or video recording?

2.  Learn about the work that is required for a typical oral history project.

3.  Determine the scope of your project.

  • A project’s scope can include such things as its duration, its location, and the approximate number of people to be interviewed. For example, the scope of a project could be summarized as one that is three weeks in duration; located in Etna, Maine, and nearby communities; and concerned with interviewing a male and female member of your family — who moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to California during the 1960s.

4.  Conduct preliminary research.

  • Have members of the family or anyone else already conducted research on the topic or topics that interest you? If so, try to determine what work has been done and whether it makes sense for you to do additional work or, instead, choose a different topic that hasn’t been explored.
  • Review published and unpublished material about your topic in order to learn more about it and, thus, better prepare for the interviews you will undertake. For example, if you intend to interview a family member about her experiences manufacturing military aircraft during World War II, it would be beneficial to read books and articles about the work women did in the wartime industries, especially those that relate to the manufacture of aircraft and the work performed at the particular plant where the relative worked.
  • Complete “Oral History Project: Historical Setting Summary”
  • Determine whether there are members of the family who have the information you are interested in discovering, and, also, if they are willing and able to share it with you during a recorded interview. If no one has the information, or people are unable to share it for one reason or another, then the best course will be to select a different research topic.
  • Complete “Oral History Project: Biography”

5.  Determine who will work on the project.

  • Will it be necessary to have others who will operate audio or video recorders during the interviews?
  • Will you need help scanning, labeling, and archiving your information? Will you need support converting your documents?

6.  Determine what will happen to the recordings and other documentary materials after the project comes to an end.

  • Should the materials be preserved and made available to other members of the family and others? If so, would it be desirable to preserve the materials in a public repository, such as a library, archive or museum? It is important to discuss this with prospective repositories (Veterans History Project, Civil Rights Project) at the start of the project because they may have specific requirements, such as the use of certain media for interviews.

7. Complete a release form.

  • It is critical for oral history projects to use release forms for the purpose of confirming that interviewees have given their consent to be recorded and for the recordings to be archive and/or used for research.
  • Complete “Oral History Project: Release Form”

8. Determine what equipment, supplies and other resources are needed.

  • What kind of recording equipment will you use?
  • What supplies will you need?
  • If interviewers need to travel, will they have access to automobiles or other appropriate means of transportation?

9.  Follow the timetable for the project.

  • When will it start, when will it end and what are important milestones, or phases, along the way?
  • Have I met deadlines for the project?

10.  Publicity.

  • Consider ways to inform family members about the project. They might include an announcement sent by regular mail or email, and verbal announcements and hand-outs at family reunions and other gatherings.
  • Create interview questions (see samples on Vietnam, see samples on Veterans) and have your interviewee preview them before the interview.
  • Submit your interview to a repository (Veterans Project, local library archive, VFW, Nokomis database, etc.)
  • Write thank you letters to your interviewee and anyone that helped support you during your project.