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Oral history toolkit._final_version


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Oral history toolkit._final_version

  1. 1. Schools Oral History ToolkitThis toolkit has been created as a brief and accessible introductioninto planning and conducting a school oral history project.The toolkit was created by Nuneaton Museum & Art Galleryin partnership with Herbert Media and pupils from St ThomasMore Catholic School & Technology College.
  2. 2. ContentsThe Focus For Your Project 1Approaching People 2Planning 3Preparing Questions 4Microphones & Recorders 6Doing The Interview 7After The Interview 9
  3. 3. THE FOCUS FOR YOUR PROJECT Think first about a focus or theme for your project. This could be your own family or street or your school. Finding someone to interview Ask friends, relatives, neighbours, teachers or school friends.You might want to pick a topic to ask peopleabout, for example memories of childhood,leisure, politics, music or memories of comingto Britain as a migrant. Ask your local newspaper or radio station to run an appeal. Get in touch with your local library or museum.Contact local history groups, Visit older peoples centresprofessional or voluntary and clubs.organisations. 1
  4. 4. APPROACHING PEOPLE The best way to approach someone you want to interview is by personal contact, rather than by letter. This gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself, explain your project and outline the sort of topics you might cover in your conversation. The key is not to use the word ‘interview’ but perhaps something lighter such as ‘a chat.’The person you have approached may beuncertain: they might say they have nothinginteresting to say. Sometimes you will haveto do a bit of persuading. When you speak to them get some background information and decide where the interview should take place. The persons own home is by far the best as they will be much more relaxed. One-to-one interviews encourage free discussion. 2
  5. 5. Before interviewing someone its useful PLANNINGTo have done some background research. Prepare a list of questions but be careful that this does not make you too rigid in your questioning approach. Contact your local museum, library Some of the best things you find out will be or record office to get access to relevant unexpected, and once you get started you are books, maps or newspapers that might likely to be told some things you had not be relevant to your chosen theme. previously thought about. Your questions should be structured and thought out. For this you need an overall plan. Group the topics you want to cover in a logical way. Often a chronological structure or timeline is best. 3
  6. 6. Use plain words and avoid suggesting the answers. PREPARING QUESTIONS Rather than, "I suppose you must have had an unhappy childhood?" Ask "Can you describe your childhood?"Sometimes you will needsome questions that "What year didencourage precise that happen?"answers. But you also need others which are open, inviting descriptions, comments, opinions: "How did you feel about that?" "Why did you decide to do that?" "What sort of person was she?" "Can you describe the house you lived in?"There are some points to cover in every interview:date and place of birth, what their parents and theirown main jobs were.Whatever the topic, it usually helps to get the interviewee talking if you begin with theirearlier life: family background, grandparents, parents and brothers and sisters. 4
  7. 7. PREPARING QUESTIONSMost people find it easierto remember their life inchronological order, andit can sometimes takeyou two or three sessionsto record a full life story.The best interviews flow naturally and are notrehearsed. Dont use a script but do prepare notes to help you focus on your theme. Make sure you guide the interview if it goes off on a tangent. Keeping your theme in mind will help you do this Recorded life stories should be lively, spontaneous and vivid. Allow people to be themselves! 5
  8. 8. MICROPHONES & RECORDERS Whatever recorder you decide to use it is important to use an external microphone.Internal microphones built intothe recorder often givepoor results.For one-to-one interviews indoors, the best external microphone is a small tie clipor lapel microphone. If your recorder is stereo and has two microphone sockets use two microphones, one for your interviewee and one for yourself. 6
  9. 9. Be reassuring. Remember that you are DOING THE INTERVIEWtheir guest, and if they are elderly, thatyou may be the first person they havespoken to for several days. They maybe nervous, so it is essential to bepolite and patient. Choose a quiet place. If you can, switch off radios and televisions, which can sometimes make it difficult to hear what someone is saying. Switch off all mobile phones. Keep your questions short and clear.Get close. Sit side-by-side and if you are using a clip-on microphone, put it about nine inchesfrom the persons mouth. With a hand-held microphone place it as near as possible but noton the same surface as the recorder, nor on a hard surface which gives poor sound quality.Generally, the closer the microphone the better the results. 7
  10. 10. DOING THE INTERVIEW Your aim is to get them to talk, not to talk about yourself! Always wait for a pauseDont interrupt: dont ask too many questions. before you ask the next question. Listen carefully and maintain good eye contact. Respond positively to answers but try to keep your talk to a minimum. Positive body language like nodding and smiling is much better. Be relaxed, unhurried and sympathetic. Dont get into heated debate or argument. Dont be afraid to ask more questions. Try to explore motives and feelings with questions like "why?" and "how did you feel?". Listening is important. Often it will suggest your next question! Be prepared for someone to become upset or cry. Dont feel bad about this but offer to suspend the interview until they are ready to continue or set another date. 8
  11. 11. After the interview is finished dont AFTER THE INTERVIEWrush away. Take time to thank them. It is important that you arrange copyright clearance with your interviewee to allow you to use their recording. A simple form with a statement giving you permission to use the recording should be signed by both parties. Leave a copy with your interviewee.Before you leave provide an address or phone number where you can be contacted and makeclear whether you will be returning for a follow up interview or not. This can avert anyunnecessary worry. 9
  12. 12. AFTER THE INTERVIEW Remember that your visit will often have a major impact on someone who has perhaps never told anyone their memories before. Do remember to thank your interviewee. A Thank You card or letter is often appreciated!It is vital to transfer the digital files you haverecorded to computer and make back-upsafety copies for permanent preservation. If you have recorded to tape make a transcription of the recording. 10