Top TWO Tips for Recording Oral History Interviews
I’ve been delivering oral history workshops for a number of years around Central Queensland. The workshop takes about half a day and participants learn the ins and outs of the interview process plus what to do before and after. But at the end of the training there are two key messages I want participants to walk away with.
Tip #1: Have-A-Chat
No, this isn’t the nickname for the person being interviewed, although it does help if they possess the gift of the gab. This is about getting to know your interviewee beforehand. Walking straight in and pressing record can be very intimidating. Having a cuppa and a chat with the person gives you a chance to learn their body language, help plan what you are going to ask in the interview and is a great time to raise any sensitive issues which may come up during the recorded interview.
Tip #2: Be the EXPERT at your own equipment
There are far too many types of recorders out there to cover everything in a workshop. I ask participants to bring along their equipment and you will always see an array of different tape recorders, notetakers, digital voice recorders, etc. It’s best for the individual to do their own research on what will suit them and play, play, play. Do a few test recordings, familiarise yourself with all the features. Learn where the pause and stop buttons are! Just remember, in the interview, you are the expert in the room for the recording equipment.
Of course there are many other tips for producing an oral history interview, but for me, these are definitely the most important.
For more information on recording oral history interviews please visit the Oral History Association of Australia.