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