Oral history: DIY


It's time to capture memories!

Maybe you have a family member who tells the same stories at each special occasion gathering.  Maybe you have a neighbor who can tell you all about the beginnings of your corner of town.  Or maybe you know someone who experienced a big slice of history.  Now is the time to sit down and record their thoughts.  

DIY Interviewing Prep

Ask permission to do an interview.  Prepare some questions.  Use your phone to record in a quiet, comfortable spot.  Limit your interview time so as not to overwhelm or tire out either of you.  Listen.

DIY Sample Questions

Use open-ended questions that invite more than a yes or no response.  You want to encourage conversation.  Questions might look like these:

Tell me about your childhood.**How did you get that scar? **What was it like to live during the war?**When did you start your company and what gave you the idea?**Why did you decide to leave your country?**What lessons have you learned in life?**What do you want people to remember you by? 

DIY After the Interview

Send a thank you note.  Transcribe the interview.  Send copies of the interview to others who may want it.  Check and see if the interview is appropriate for a local history society or other organization to preserve. 

DIY: A Touchstone

Oral histories can be magical for capturing a person's voice and memories.  Once that person is gone, the interview is a touchstone for hearing that person and his/her inflections and mannerisms.  The interview connects people in ways we may not anticipate.