Many families celebrated, or plan to celebrate, holidays virtually this year through platforms like Zoom. It can hard to feel that sense of connection without the casual conversations and reminiscences around the dinner table, though. One way that you can foster that connection with your loved ones, plus give a gift to future generations, is recording an oral history! It’s easy.
Before you start…
- Plan a Zoom meeting with a family member. One person at a time is usually easier.
- Agree on a topic together. Right now, the historical society is most focused on women’s histories for our Little Compton Women’s History Project, or on farming stories for our 2021 exhibition.
- Come up with some open-ended questions in advance. For example, ask, “what did you think about Mrs. Magnuski?” instead of, “I heard [x, y, & z] about Mrs. Magnuski, is that true?” When you ask questions that can’t be answered with just yes or no, you get richer stories. (Sample questions we used on the Remembering Adamsville project are below.)
During the Zoom…
- As soon as you start your Zoom meeting, make sure to press “record”. (Click here for more information from Zoom about recording.)
- Begin by introducing yourself and your interviewee, state the date & time, where each of you are, and the topic. For example, “My name is Jenna Magnuski, I’m interviewing my niece Emma Magnuski about her great-grandmother Gertrude Magnuski. It’s December 20th, 2020 at 2pm. We are each at our own homes in Little Compton.”
- Use your question list to get things started. Keep it comfortable and conversational. Ask follow-up questions as appropriate, and go back to your list if the conversation starts to slow down.
After the Zoom…
- Have the person you interviewed fill out the Deed of Gift form (below). This gives us permission to use the interview.
- Upload the recording to the transcribing service of your choice. You will have to go back through and make corrections, but it beats transcribing every word yourself. (One transcribing service option is Otter. It is a trusted application that allows up to 600 minutes of free transcription per month.)
- Send the form, the recordings, and the transcript to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write an essay to be included in our Little Compton Women’s History Project, if applicable, and send it to us.
That’s it! Hopefully you learned something new about your loved one, or got to set down a favorite family tale.