HIS 280B Oral History Workshop

HIS 280B Proseminar, “Introduction to Oral History Methodology and Practice Workshop” at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Sponsored by TBA

Date & Time: TBA, Fall 2018

For questions, Tweet me at @PrisMMartinez and use the hashtag #OralHistAtUCSC

Workshop Overview

Welcome to “Introduction to Oral History Methodology and Practice”! In this workshop we will define oral history, explore oral history as a methodology, and delineate differences between oral history and other forms of interviewing in different disciplines. This workshop will address basic, but critical questions, like the following:

  1. What is oral history?
  2. How does oral history differ from interviewing?
  3. Is oral history a primary or a secondary source? And, how does the method account for issues with memory?
  4. How can I use oral history interviews in my own research?
  5. What makes a good question?
  6. What are the best practices for oral history?
  7. What do I need to know to start my own oral history project?

Sample Documents


Sample Word List_Marin, Alfred L

Sample Abstract_gamezdp20120719

Preparation for the Workshop

  1. Read Alessandro Portelli, “What makes Oral History different.” In The Oral History Reader, edited by Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, 48-58. New York: Routledge, 2016. Click here for the PDF.
  2. Listen/read to an oral history interview in its entirety and take notes. We will discuss the methods employed in these interviews.
    Pick one of the following:
    A. Interview with Gilda Wabbit (Sam Themer), April 5, 2017, from “Outsouth: LGBTQ+ Oral History Project.”
    B. Interview with Diana Palacios Gamez, July 19, 2012, from “Here We Remain: The Legacy of El Movimiento in Crystal City, Texas Oral History Project.”

Goals for the Workshop

1. Defining Oral History

In this workshop, we will talk about the formation of oral history as a discipline and the development of oral history as a methodology, We will also delve into different ways to use oral history across and within multiple disciplines.

2. Utilizing Oral Histories in Academic Writing

In this workshop, we will critically-engage with two examples of oral history interviews to hone in on disparate, but consistent oral history methodology.

3. Interviewing, The Basics

In this workshop, we will talk about your role as an Interviewer, techniques. and strategies—including what makes a good question and how to listen. We will also cover interview best practices and practical techniques to employ during the interview.

4. Best Practices in Oral History

In this workshop, we will very briefly discuss essential documentation for any oral history project and methodological standards.

5. Getting Started and Designing a Project

In this workshop, we will talk briefly about setting long and short-term goals, constructing timelines, generating topic lists, contacting gatekeepers, and identifying narrators. We will also discuss the necessary equipment required for fieldwork and how to preserve and protect your interviews. This logistical side will be helpful to you as you all start grant writing to fund your larger projects.

Next Steps?

  1. Read  Baylor University Institute for Oral History’s Introduction to Oral History manual.
  2. Check out these introductory readings on different aspect and considerations in oral history methodology. I’ve put together a Reading List here!
  3. Explore oral history digital collections.
    Here are some of my recommendations:
    – Baylor University Institute for Oral History
    – University of Kentucky’s Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History
    –  University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program
  4. Listen to some oral history podcasts.
    Here are some of my favorites:
  5. Subscribe to H-Oralhist listserv for updates on grant opportunities, conferences, and current debates in the field.

Other Oral History Resources

Oral History Association ‘s (OHA) Principles and Best Practices

OHA endorsed Web Guides to Doing Oral History

Oral History in the Digital Age introduction and website

Ask Doug (Boyd) – Choosing an Audio Recorder

Resources for your own projects:

Sample Project Overview Template

Sample Unrestricted Oral History Interviewee Deed of Gift

Sample Unrestricted Oral History Interviewer Deed of Gift

Sample Ephemera Release

Sample Pre-Interview Documentation: Project Abstract, Topic List and Pre-Interview Form

Sample Processing Log

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