Taping Seriously – Oral History course number two

Another great course at the National Library. The course was preceeded by homework! – recording an interview and bringing it along. I managed to persuade my daughter Kate to be my guinea pig, borrowed a little digital recorder and to my surprise we managed to record 3/4 hour about her memories of her primary school days. This was a great learning exercise. The next scary bit was having Judith Fyfe play bits out to the class and critique it but she did it very well and constructively.

The things I learnt from this include:

always have water handy ( the minute I started I developed an itchy throat!),
that interviewing requires a great deal of concentration and is quite exhausting,
that using a good digital recorder with a built in microphone did produce a good quality recording,
that a few basic warm up questions are essential to get the interview under way – you know – name, rank, serial number.

My course mates were very supportive and this time there was another person from Christchurch on the course so we are planning to keep in touch and hopefully network with other oral historians in Christchurch.

To illustrate the unexpectedness of oral history, another exercise we had to do was to bring a photograph of significance and talk about it in a 10 minute interview. The woman I was paired with brought a photo of her aunt, Kathleen Hall, who was a missionary nurse in China and worked with the Communist Eighth Route Army. Her photograph showed her and another niece standing beside the statue of Kathleen Hall in the remote Chinese village where she had run her hospital. The statue included a dog – about which there was a story and if time had allowed I could have asked whether her aunt ever met Mao etc etc. We have several biographies of Kathleen Hall in the library.

We covered interviewing techniques quite intensively, as well as protocols and procedures when setting up an interview.

I next go to Wellington at Show Weekend when we tackle abstracting. This is the process of comprehensively listing all the subjects covered in the interview. This makes it easy for future researchers to see if the interview may be of use to them.

If you are interested in seeing how a community oral history project has been put online look at the Kilbirnie-Lyall Bay Community Centre Oral History Project

4 thoughts on “Taping Seriously – Oral History course number two

  1. Paul November 6, 2007 / 5:14 am

    I like Storycorps – US national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others’ stories in sound.

    maybe at the other end of the spectrum – just gathering stories!

    “They are here to help you interview your grandmother, your uncle, the lady who’s worked at the luncheonette down the block for as long as you can remember-anyone whose story you want to hear and preserve.

    To start, they are building soundproof recording studios across the country, called StoryBooths. You can use these StoryBooths to record broadcast-quality interviews with the help of a trained facilitator. The first StoryBooth opened in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on
    October 23, 2003. They also have two traveling recording studios, called MobileBooths

    Interview are added to the StoryCorps Archive, housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which we hope will become nothing less than an oral history of America.

    StoryCorps is modeled -in spirit and in scope-after the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s, through which oral-history interviews with everyday Americans across the country were recorded. These recordings remain the single most important collection of American voices gathered to date. We hope that StoryCorps will build and expand on that work, becoming a WPA for the 21st Century.”


  2. Marion November 6, 2007 / 8:01 pm

    This is a great scheme – so accessible in many ways – providing you get the url right! http://www.storycorps.net
    They have a You Tube presence, a comprehensive question sheet to help interviewers and an interesting blog which shows you aspects of America beyond the tv image which gives you a whole different perspective.

  3. Camterbury Heritage March 29, 2009 / 5:28 am

    Two absolute musts for the local project would have to be Gladys Goodall, the centenarian photographer and Dr Roger Morton Ridley-Smith, now of Wellington, who knew Richard Evans, 1850 first four ships emigrant.

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