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Oral History

A guide to oral history resources at the Southwest Collection and beyond.


At its core, all you need to record an oral history interview is an audio recorder that can pick up two voices. How elaborate you make your technological set up is entirely up to you. Below are some basic guidelines and further assistance. 

  • Find a quiet space that will allow cleaner audio files with fewer interruptions and distortions. 
  • Ensure the microphone picks up both voices, especially the interviewee. 
  • Become familiar with your recorder before conducting your first interview. 

The Southwest Collection utilizes Tascam DR-100MKII recorders for our in-person interviews. If you are interested in purchasing an audio recorder for interviewing, we have suggested the Zoom H4n or the Tascam DR-40X for simple interview projects in the past. More on technology set ups can be found on the Texas Oral History Association's website. 

Audio Specifications: The Southwest Collection records 96kHz, 24bit stereo WAV files. We then create access copies at 44.1kHz, 16bit WAV and an mp3 copy as well. 

University Libraries Equipment Available for Use

The Texas Tech University Libraries has audio and video equipment available for check out.

For the latest policies and procedures, check the library website.

For Student Projects-- Using a Cell Phone to Record In-Person Interviews

The goal with any oral history recording is to get the highest quality audio in a non-proprietary file format. 

Though the impulse will be to just turn on the voice memo feature on your phone to record an interview, there are alternative apps that allow you to customize the audio recording settings and software. 

A few recommended apps (available for both iphone and android, links below are android): 

For this set up, we recommend a minimum setting of 44.1kHz, 16bit stereo WAV files. 

Video Interview Considerations

The Southwest Collection prefers doing audio interviews, but video is a great way to record non-verbal cues that are otherwise lost in an audio recording.

However, video interviews inherently do become more complicated. You will need to consider lighting, backgrounds, sound, camera angles and framing, and the interviewee's general comfort level to being video recorded. That's after you've figured out file formats and storage solutions (video takes up considerably more digital storage space than audio).

A few resources: