DIY Oral History

It is time to tell our stories

There is so much going on in our world,. This is a good reason to come together and tell our stories, to talk of hopes, fears, and dreams, and to talk about our lives.

Children, friends, grandparents. Even those of us who are alone, we all can record our stories.

We at the Oral History Center can help in two ways. You choose one —- according to how much time you might want to spend on this project. DIY for Y (Yourself) –OR– DIY with our help, (for yourself and for the public archive).


1. Do It Yourself
for Y and your family

2. Do It Yourself
for Y and the Public

1. Do It Yourself (for Yourself)

This option takes much less time. Do It Yourself for Y (Yourself and your family) — We provide tips and information. But you do it, and your stories remain private, for family, friends.

We will give ideas on how to record, conduct the interview, and safely save your recordings. You will do it for your own family record. We have several forms below to help you move through the process.

Here is what you do:

a. Prepare for the interview and discuss with the narrator/interviewee. (Interviewer: Why do you want to do it? What do you hope to learn? What types of questions do you want to ask? How much time will it take? What stories would the interviewee like to tell? Both interviewer and interviewee have a say in all of this. Tip: Do not spend too much time on this conversation – enough to prepare but not so much that it feels like the interview itself.
b. Select equipment
c. Prepare the recording space.  A relatively quiet space, whether you recording in person or at a distance.
d. Conduct the interview
e. Safely store the recording in at least 2 places.
f.  Send or bring a copy of the recording to the interviewee.
g. Celebrate!

DIY for Y. Forms and information/links you can use. There are many links to resources inside these links:

DIY Interview Tips
DIY Tips for Recording/Equipment

•InterviewCheckList (Click to download)


2. Do It Yourself (for Yourself and the Public)

Have more time? With our Guidance, for Yourself and for a Public Archive, too. We will help you find the right archive for your recording. This option requires more work. It is a commitment. We will guide you.

Here are the steps:

a. Email the Oral History Center to set up a phone appointment:
b. Prepare for the interview, discussing the idea and plan with the interviewee/narrator.
c. Select the recording space (see DIY above)
d. Select recording equipment (see link above)
e. Print a release/deed of gift form to use at the time of the interview. (We can supply a version of this form for you to adapt.)
f.  Conduct the interview
g.  Save the interview in three places. Scan the release save it too, for yourselves and for the archive.  Name the files using a naming convention that you have decided upon. That  way your file names in each project will have the same naming format.
h. Complete a post-interview form for the archive (this is also known as a metadata form, and helps the archive to correctly process the interview and put it online.)
i. Transcribe the interview or log the interview, and give a copy to the interviewee to read and approve. (We can provide guidance on this, too.)
J. Give/Send the interviewee a copy of the recording.
k. Talk with us at the Oral History Center, about the post-interview (metadata) form, transcript, and release.

Information you can use. There are links to additional resources inside these links:

Interview Tips
Tips for Recording/Equipment
Post Interview-Form For the Archive
Transcription Tips

Interviewing, what we do

We provide the place, physically and emotionally, for the story

  • We talk with the interviewee ahead of time, answer questions, explain our project; we ask what they want to be sure to include in their interview.

  • We select a place (or technology) that is accessible and conducive to telling and to listening.

  • We structure the conversation but leave lots of room for the narrator’s own way of telling.

  • We listen.

  • We take good care of the interview when it is complete, by archiving it properly, and giving a copy to the narrator.