A quick report: Setting up your oral history project

Margaret Cherin, Bard College at Simon’s Rock Archivist, shows her project

If you are thinking of starting an oral history project, the first question you should ask yourself is,  “What is my goal?”

That question, according to Margaret Cherin, Archivist at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and director of the Simon’s Rock Oral History Project, gets the project off to start that is more likely to lead to sustainable results.  Many people race to get to the interviews without really thinking why they are doing the project, except to catch elders before it is too late. They often find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the details of the project.  “The clearer you are about the end goal, the better,” she said.

She shared her own spreadsheet with the group, gathered for a Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at BCC workshop held at the BCC South County Center in Gt. Barrington. This spreadsheet is where she meticulously tracks the  interview process, from pre-interview  letter or conversation through to the safe redundant archiving (in two or three different places).

(The Oral History Center is preparing a copy of her spreadsheet and will post it on this blog.)

Margaret showed us archival boxes, and stressed that paper is still the most stable material/format.  “Think 100 years,” she said, when preparing your project.  How will people find what you have done? In what condition will it be?  So, in addition to the digital archiving, she always prints out the transcription of the interview, on acid free paper, and puts it into an archival box that is well labeled and carefully stored.

(Margaret Cherin showing a video made with the oral histories collected at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.  In front, on the table, you see the archival box, and to the left of it, her small, three-terabyte drive, just one of two or three digital locations for the digital files.)

Written by Judith

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