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Oral History

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

Community Partnership Opportunities

Does your community or organization have "old timers" whose histories need to be preserved? The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library can help! We are passionate about preserving history and want to ensure everyone's stories are heard for generations to come. We'd love to partner with your group and conduct oral history interviews!

Where to Begin

Do you have an upcoming reunion or meeting? If so, it might be a good time to gather individuals together. The SWC could be added to your program; we typically schedule interviews in 2-3 hour chunks of time. Depending on how many people are to be interviewed, we can work over multiple days. 

Types of Questions Asked

Each project is unique. Our oral history archivist will work with you to determine the subjects to be covered. Most interviews begin with basic identifying information, childhood/background, education, work and family, and then discussions of the topics most important for your group. Specific questions are less important-- we want to allow our interviewees to tell their stories in their own words. 

What's Needed:

  • a quiet space to record
  • willing interviewees 
  • SWC will provide everything else, including recording equipment and paperwork

Recording the Interview and What Happens Next

We recommend group leaders reach out to potential interviewees and schedule times, since they know best who should be recorded. (The SWC can also assist as needed). 

On the day of the interview(s), it's helpful for the organization to have one person coordinating, to ensure interviews are not interrupted. The interviewer will meet with the interviewee, explain the process and have them sign a release form. Then if interviews need to go longer than the allotted time, a follow up time can be scheduled. 

After the interview, the recordings are placed in the Southwest Collection for long-term storage and preservation. Our trained staff will transcribe the interviews and eventually a transcript will be place don our website for anyone to access. If your organization is interested in retaining a copy or being involved in the transcription process, all of that can be arranged and discussed further during project planning.