The Southern Oral History Program (SOHP), founded in 1973, documents the stories of individuals across the American South with its extensive oral history collection. The histories are housed at the Southern History Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as part of the Center for the Study of the American South. Today, the SOHP provides an amazing opportunity for collaboration between historians, archivists, and researchers. Not only do they continue to gather important stories of the South, the SOHP also hosts a well-known podcast. Press Record — “a podcast about the joys and challenges of learning history by talking to those who lived it” — is an amazing resource for those of us continuing to learn how to conduct oral histories. The Nuevas Raíces: Voces de Carolina del Norte project is also a product of an SOHP collaboration with the Latino Migration Project and the UNC University Libraries.
[True] Stories was lucky to help bring historian Rachel Seidman and archivist Jaycie Vos to Davidson College for a discussion with students of Professor Kelly and Professor Christian Lamb’s Oral History course. We hope you enjoy this recording of their wonderful talk about oral history methods, Nuevas Raíces,and their experiences working for the Southern Oral History Project!
HistoryPin is a unique non-profit website designed to allow people to connect and share pieces of history by virtually pinning them to the HistoryPin map. For example, below is an 1890 photograph of Rollins College that was pinned to Winter Park, Florida by the Winter Park Public Library.
Photographs, video, audio content can all be pinned to the map. Together, these can form incredible collections that tell the story of a place, pulling a single point out from a map and showing its passage through time.
Anyone can create an account with HistoryPin and start building their own collection. This is especially useful for those who are working on oral history projects that are tied to a specific location–for example, our students who are exploring topics related to their particular campuses.
To upload audio or video content, follow these steps (adapted from the HistoryPin FAQs
Upload your audio or video clip to YouTube
Make sure your video is listed as public
Click the “share” button under the video on YouTube. Check the “long link” box and copy the link.
Log in or create a HistoryPin account
Click ‘Pin’ and select ‘Video’ or ‘Audio’ and drop in the link
Add a title, date, and location (the date and location can be approximate)
Don’t forget to save!
Once material has been pinned to the map, descriptive content (what you may have heard us refer to as “metadata”) or narrative content can also be added. In fact, you can add descriptive or narrative content to anything on the HistoryPin map, even if you didn’t add it yourself. This creates a rich opportunity for people to increase the communal knowledge about particular places and digital objects–for example, you may find a photo or video on HistoryPin which you know more about than the person who originally added it!
Remember: If you are posting content from an oral history interview, make sure you have permission from the person you interviewed before making their interview public. If you do have permission but don’t have a YouTube account, don’t forget that if you created content as part of a class participating in the [True] Stories Project, we are happy to post your interview to our YouTube channel. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
This semester my COM 230: Listening class had the opportunity to participate in [True] Stories, a project focused on the importance of teaching oral history in the College classroom. We started the semester with readings (e.g., Wolvin, 2010; Rubin & Rubin, 2012) and discussions about the value of qualitative interviewing for learning, understanding, and sharing experiences. Students were asked to interview a professional from the community to learn more about the importance of listening in the field they are interested in joining after graduation.
In their first assignment, students submitted a brief reflection describing the person they planned to interview, draft of interview questions, and your rationale for asking those questions. Students learned about the ethics of qualitative research. I explained the role of the Institutional Review Board when conducting research and described the process that resulted in approval of the project from the IRB at Rollins College. We had each interviewee complete an informed consent form describing the purpose of the project before the interview.
After the students completed individual interviews with professionals in our community, students audio record responses to a set of prescribed questions and prepared a typed transcript of the most important segments of the interview. Then, in small groups, the students coded/analyzed the interviews for themes.
One of the biggest “aha” moments came after Leslie Poole, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, gave a talk on her experiences with oral history as a journalist. Students were able to compare their experiences doing oral history with a professional’s experiences which added to their learning.
Students also reflected on the role of listening in oral history and wrote a paper that included information drawn from what they had learned in class (through readings, lectures, and discussions) and their individual research to discuss how the scholarly research relates to or contradicts what the students learned from professionals through the interviews.
This was a full semester project. However, in the future, I plan to have the students complete the assignment in a shorter period of time. I believe that starting the project at the mid-point of the semester and including guest lectures earlier in the semester will help students better integrate the material learned in class with their project.
We are happy to invite you to another [True] Stories speaker event:
Oral History, Copyright, and Beyond: A Conversation with Dr. Jonathan Miller of Rollins College
Time: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 10:00am EST/ 9:00am CT
Rollins College’s Library Director, Dr. Jonathan Miller, will lead us in a conversation about copyright as well as other ethical and practical considerations involved with oral history work.
Dr. Miller earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 and wrote his dissertation on the role of librarians and libraries in the development of copyright law. His research and writing interests also include copyright history, open access publishing, and library management. In addition to his many publications, awards, and accomplishments, Dr. Miller is active in the Association of College & Research Libraries where he enjoys engaging in advocacy and government relations work. You can view Dr. Miller’s CV online here and a selection of his recent publications here.
Please join us and bring your questions! This event will also be recorded and an edited copy will be available afterwards on the [True] Stories website.
To me, the oral history process was interesting and insightful, but there definitely were surprises and challenges that I had to face. Since this was the first time that I had to prepare for an interview, I was surprised at how hard it was to come up with questions for the interviewee, especially since there wasn’t a bio available that I could work off of. It was also a challenge constructing questions that could balance learning about the interviewee and learning about listening. I think my questions were more centered around listening and not enough about my interviewee. By asking more questions on his background, it would’ve probably helped me understand better why he listens the way he does.
I gained perspective into my own identity by learning that others can be more particular and less impulsive when it comes to communicating. What really stuck out to me in the interview was when my interviewee explained how he handled negative/challenging listening situations. He would take time to let certain things marinate for a night before responding. I feel as if I always want to get things settled or exclaimed right away and then I go home and say to myself “Man, I wish I would’ve said this” or “That wasn’t how I wanted my message to come out” but the conversation is over. I think being less confrontational would improve my current relationships that I have with others.
The readings and concepts weren’t strongly connected to my interview. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t as apparent as I expected it to be, but I had to remember that not many people get formal training and education on the topic of listening. However, appreciated seeing some of my interviewee’s listening techniques that come to him naturally, such as leading with emotion and accountability, were present in his career life. I could see them connect to readings and concepts that were discussed in class. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and interview Richard. It was an opportunity for me to use my listening skills that I have learned in class, such as ditching distractions, taking notes and suspending my sense of self in order to fully listen and immerse myself into his story. I think that I learned a lot from him as well when it comes to how I should listen to others not only in person, but online as well. This was something very insightful as I normally work with digital platforms in terms of marketing. And digital communication has become a huge part of our lives today so this is something we should take serious thought into.
If I could interview him again, I definitely would. I want to become more comfortable going off-script and asking more follow-up questions in order to get more information. I would also like to try a different location. We had originally set up to meet at the restaurant that he worked for, but the noise seemed to be quite a distraction. I think that the conversation became much more organic over time, this really showed me the importance of asking a few simple questions in the beginning of an interview to break the ice in order for the interviewee to become more comfortable. I think these types of interviews too should have more than 25-20 minute time frame in order for both of us to feel comfortable interviewing and speaking as well. Overall, it was a really great experience. I learned a lot from Richard regarding his personal values and career behavior when it comes to listening. I think it will be of great benefit for me when I start out on my first full-time position in the next few months.
Please join us for tomorrow’s [True] Stories speaker event:
Listening in Interviews: A Journalist-Turned-Historian’s Perspective, with Dr. Leslie Poole of Rollins College
Time: Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 2:00pm EST /1:00pm CT
Award-winning writer and historian, Dr. Leslie Poole, will lead a Rollins classroom talk for Dr. Anne Stone’s Listening Class, discussing the listening styles and interview strategies she cultivated as a journalist with deadlines, assignments, questionable sources, and a diverse readership base. She will also compare those approaches to methodologies used in traditional oral history work, a field she has become well versed in during her more recent years as a historian and professor at Rollins College.
Leslie’s talk will be followed by a classroom and chat room Q and A session, so join us and bring your questions! This event will also be recorded and an edited copy will be available afterwards on the [True] Stories website.
Dr. Brenda Sendejo, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, talks about oral history methodsand best practices in the context of the Austin-based Latina Spiritualities Project and the student-driven Latina History Project at Southwestern University.
Here are a list of the questions participants asked:
In the context of multilingual oral history projects, sometimes meaning and words get lost in translation. Do you recommend a translator to help mediate this? And does that change the dynamic of the interview?
Do you tend to provide questions in advance for any of your interviewees who might feel they need to prepare themselves for the interview?
What about using photos or newspaper clippings as “conversation starters“? Is that influencing the interviewee’s recall too much, or, alternatively, does it serve to lead the discussion in a productive direction?
Is it effective to capture the interview on video as well as audio, since an oral history can be an emotional journey for the interviewee their emotional responses can be a critical piece of their story? Or, does a video recorder tend to make people too self-conscious or even uncomfortable?
See how Dr. Sendejo responded to these questions during the Q and A by watching the video in full (above) or clicking on theindividual chapter linksin the far left corner of the video viewer. The slides and audio from this presentation are also available separately at the links below.
In a recording from just a few weeks back at the 27th Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Artsin Winter Park, Florida, Zora’s friends and relatives offer amazingly personal stories about the time they spent with the talented writer and folklorist who called Eatonville her home.
Sights, sounds, and smells play a critical part in their recollections as they recount what it was like to visit Hurston and her home. In one heartfelt comment, Mrs. Ella Johnson Dinkins (daughter of Hurston’s Eatonville friend, Addie G. Johnson), remembered Zora’s affection for her and the other children of Eatonville even after many years of notoriety and success – “Zora comforted us as children […] She came to us as a mother would, […] she would always cover us, [and] love us children, because that was just her way.”
Stay tuned for a special recording of “In Conversation: The Zora Neale Hurston I Remember”: An Interview with Mrs. Ella Johnson Dinkins (daughter of Hurston’s Eatonville friend, Addie G. Johnson), Dr. Clifford Hurston Jr. (Hurston’s Nephew), and Mrs.Vivian Hurston Bowden (Hurston’s Niece). The conversation, led by Dr. Ben Brotemarkle of the Florida Historical Society, enjoyed a a large and captive audience.