DIY Oral History, 2020

It is time to tell our stories, 2020-2021

Many of us are at home. Some of us are isolated there. Some are staying with family. There is so much going on in our world, and this is a good reason to come together and tell our stories, to talk of hopes, fears, dreams, and talk about our lives.

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

We at the Oral History Center can help in two ways. You choose one —- based on how much time you 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


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 put your recording into an online archive. This option requires more work, about 30 hours for each interview. 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 (link to form above)
d. Select recording equipment (link to form above)
e. Print a release/deed of gift form to use at the time of the interview. (We will supply this form. It allows you to place the interview in the public archive and states important information about the rights to this interview.)
f.  Conduct the interview
g.  Save the interview in three places. Scan the release and send it to us, keeping a copy for yourself.
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. Send a copy of the recording to the Oral History Center, along with post-interview (metadata) form, transcript, and release. We will upload it to the University of Massachusetts Special Collections and/or University of Connecticut archives, where the materials will be carefully stored, formats updated when necessary, and made available online, forever.

Forms and 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 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.