Oral History – Class Quick Reference

To Prepare Interviews for the Archive

  • Create a project interview folder on an external hard drive for your interview files. Name the folder using the last and first name of the interviewee and the date of the interview.
    • For example: smithjane_2015February27.
  • Ensure each oral history participant, both interviewer(s) and interviewee(s), signs two copies of the release agreement. One copy goes to the participant, the other copy should be scanned and placed as a PDF in the interview folder, using the same naming convention as the folder, modified to reflect the nature of the document.
    • For example: smithjane_2015February27_interviewerrelease.pdf.

NOTE: The Rubenstein Library cannot accept oral histories, particularly those made by students, without agreements from all participants who appear in the audio or video of the interview.

  • If at all possible avoid using smartphone-based applications for recording.  If this cannot be avoided, ensure you are using an application that records, or can output after recording, audio to either WAV files or high-quality MP3 (256 kbps or higher), and video to a resolution appropriate for HD playback.
  • Shoot each interview on its own memory card, or transfer the interview from the card to the hard drive before starting a new interview.
  • Rename memory card folders as you did the project folder, adding a “part” or “camera” number as necessary. For example: smithjane_2014February27_part01_cam02. Include the folder in the project interview folder.
  • Export a higher-quality H264 .mp4 file of the raw interview, and include it in the interview folder. This will function as our primary point of access to the interview media.
  • Edited short films or clips created from the interviews can be saved as a higher-quality H264 .mov to the same folder, using the same naming convention, adding “shortfilm.” For example: smithjane_2014February27_shortfilm.mov.  These may be provided to the library in a separate accession if there is a significant gap of time between the creation of the original interviews and the edited short.
  • Basic metadata requirements – these descriptive fields should be included in the folder using the same naming convention, for example: smithjane_2014February27_metadata.txt.
    • Interviewee’s full name and date of birth.
    • Interviewer’s full name.
    • Date of the interview.
    • Location of the interview (city, state).
    • Setting of the interview (home, workplace).
    • Duration of the interview in minutes and seconds.
    • Abstract of the interview (a broad description in one or two sentences).
  • Extended metadata
    • Transcribe the interview. See “Basic Rules of Transcription.” Save the transcript to the folder using the same naming convention, adding “transcript.”   For example: smithjane_2014February27_transcript.doc.
    • Provide an index of the interview, including the main topics covered. This is best accomplished using a two-column table, with a time code every five minutes (roughly) in column one, and a one- or two-line description of the content in column two.  Save the index to the folder using the same naming convention, adding “index.”   For example: smithjane_2014February27_index.doc.
    • If a name is mentioned in the interview and that person is discussed in substance (that is, more than just mentioned in passing), add that name to a names list for the interview. Take care to spell the name correctly, and if possible do some research to find out birth/death dates of the subject.  Save the names list to the folder using the same naming convention, adding “names.”   For example: smithjane_2014February27_names.doc.
  • The Six Questions – The first five of these questions were developed by Doug Boyd at the University of Kentucky to assess the publication risks of an interview. The last is one we think makes a sensible addition.  If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, responsible archives will more than likely make the interview available only in the reading room or may even restrict it entirely.  Answer these questions, expanding where necessary if the answer is “yes,” and save these in the folder using the same naming convention, for example: smithjane_2014February27_riskassessment.txt.
    • Does this interview contain personal information such as physical address, phone number, or social security number?
    • Does this interview make criminal allegations against another party?
    • Does this interview contain slanderous or liable language?
    • Does this interview reveal trade or corporate secrets?
    • Does this interview use culturally insensitive language?
    • Does this interview reveal sensitive, private information, that could be potentially harmful, about a third party discussed in the interview?
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