It has been about 20 years since I have done any oral histories.  Although I am sure there have been some changes in how one does an oral history, I am sure some things remain the same.  Some things that I remember about the process (off the top of my head and not in any order of priority):
1.  Know the history of the subject, as much background that you can so when you are talking with the individual, you can flesh out answers by directing him/her back to what you want them to be discussing.  Also to help you ask the right questions.
2.  Prepare your questions in advance.  Provide them with a copy of your questions so they can have some time to think back on things.
3.  Decide what you will do with this history (full transcript, index the tape for key subjects, whatever), have your subject sign you the rights to the interview.  If you do a full transcript, try to have your agreement include the transcript.  Try to avoid giving your interviewee any editing rights to the transcript.

I may have more thoughts later.  Feel free to contact me directly if you have specific questions.  Also, there is an association for Oral Historians, they may be able to give you more help.  Their URL is:


Laurie Sletten, CRM, CA

NARA - Rocky Mountain Region
Bldg. 46, Denver Federal Center
P.O. Box 25307
Denver, CO  80225
Phone: (303) 236-0822, ext. 280
Cell Phone: (720) 236-6469
Fax: (303) 236-0830
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

>>> [log in to unmask] Friday, March 01, 2002 1:45:12 PM >>>
A Senior Vice President of our company is getting ready to retire at the end
of March.  He's been here since 1969 and has a tremendous amount of
corporate history in his head.  What he knows will never be found in the
records of the company.  I asked him if he would consider doing an ORAL
HISTORY for our archives.  He said yes!

Here's my dilemma.  I'm looking for any thoughts or ideas you can share on
this subject.  What I need to know is... How do I begin to organize this
task?  Are there proven best ways to collect an oral history?

I am not an archivist or communications major.  I'm a records manager who
has no training in collecting oral histories.  We do not have a professional
archivist on staff.  I've done a cursory search on the internet looking for
a "how to" instruction sheet and called a fellow ARMA member whose advise I
respect.  Thank you in advance for your help.  I value your thoughts and
will post the results.

Arlyce J Vogel, CRM
Wisconsin Electric - Wisconsin Gas
Milwaukee, WI
414/221-4462 phone

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