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Oral History

Resources for the practice of oral history.

Frequently Used Resources

What Are Oral Histories?

Oral history interviews document past events, individual or collective experiences, and understandings of history. Oral history refers to both the interview process and the products that result from recorded spoken interviews. Oral history interviews are dynamic, collaborative, and relational — a relationship rooted in trust between the interviewer and the participant. The Oral History Association defines oral history as "a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events."

In Doing Oral History, Donald Ritchie explains, “Oral History collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews.  An oral history interview generally consists of a well-prepared interviewer questioning an interviewee and recording their exchange in audio or video format.  Recordings of the interview are transcribed, summarized, or indexed and then placed in a library or archives. These interviews may be used for research or excerpted in a publication, radio or video documentary, museum exhibition, dramatization or other form of public presentation. Recordings, transcripts, catalogs, photographs and related documentary materials can also be posted on the Internet. Oral history does not include random taping, such as President Richard Nixon’s surreptitious recording of his White House conversations, nor does it refer to recorded speeches, wiretapping, personal diaries on tape, or other sound recordings that lack the dialogue between interviewer and interviewee.”

Selected Organizations

Organizations and associations often determine best practices, organize and facilitate research, and serve as hubs of information about careers, continuing education, and scholarship opportunities. Visit their websites to stay up to date on current topics and issues within this field.

Related Research Guides