The oral history training is very important because in order to get a more concrete and comprehensive picture of the Past, Oral History uses a process of registration and preservation of information from a primary source, making it available to the public. The methodology of Oral History is based primarily on the interview, a thought-out and structured process, which aims to fill certain gaps that records and ‘official’ documents do not.
We speak of the memory of an anonymous subject, as well as that of a community. Oral History seeks to obtain the stories of all, the oral testimonies of those who actually lived History.
In this post about oral history training get to know the 8 basic principles of oral history interview.
By Yolanda Silva. Autor of the online course Oral History.
What to know the Oral History Society? click here.
oral history training | 8 Basic Principles of Oral History
1 – The purpose of the interviews is to reveal contents that give rise to a reflection on the Past | oral history traning is absolutely necessary
Oral History interviews are distinguished from other forms of interviews by their characteristics: through them, one searches for a detailed account of a personal experience and the reflections of an individual, allowing him/her the time to expand his/her narrative with the desired details and fullness.
2 – The testimonies are entirely voluntary
When the project begins, the individuals to be interviewed are informed of the nature and purpose of the same project, as well as the purpose of the interview itself.
The narrators (or interviewees) are assured that their testimonies are perfectly voluntary and that at any time they may refuse to participate in the interview (or just deny any particular question), if they wish to do so. All interviews must be carried out within the parameters recognised by a consent document agreed by both parties prior to the interview.
3 – The dissemination of the resulting contents of the interview should follow any restrictions established by the narrator
The person responsible for the interview should ensure that the interviewee understands their rights and request their written or oral (recorded) consent. This document must contain the parameters imposed by the narrator respecting the content and may even restrict the use of certain materials.
4 – The historian or interviewer should always respect the interviewees, as well as the research in view
The purpose of Oral History is to focus on historically and socially significant issues, which reflect a correct and careful preparation of the interview and an understanding of the issues to be addressed throughout the same.
The historian or the interviewer must respect the narrative of the interviewee, his/her language and his/her authority over the issues spoken. Using interviews as primary sources, the historian must remain faithful and honest to History, avoiding stereotypes, misrepresentations or the manipulation of the words of the interviewees. That’s why oral history training is so important.
5. In most cases the interviewees are identified by name, with few exceptions
The identity of the narrators contributes to contextualise and thus enrich the content of the narrative.
However, in exceptional circumstances and/or by demand of the narrator, anonymity can be maintained, should the situation be properly documented.
(The project leader can try to negotiate with the interviewee on the limits of exposure of their identity, which should be established in the consent document itself, but always bearing in mind that the interviewee holds the last word and his/her wishes should be respected to the fullest.)
6. Interviews are documents of historical relevance to be preserved for future reference (for other historians or the general public)
The head of the oral project must take into account the best way to preserve the original documents collected in the course of the project itself (transcripts, photographs, copies of documents, audio and/or video recordings, etc.), in order to guarantee and safeguard the accessibility and usability of these sources by others.
For this purpose, a preservation and access plan should be established, which includes a clause concerning the dissemination of sources, either over the Internet, the media, or others (as established in the signed consent document and approved by the interviewee).
7. Preservation of collected data should be carefully done and, therefore, the interviews and transcripts should be carried out with quality
To ensure preservation of good quality documents, all materials and equipment used to record and file must correspond to the best possible quality, within the financial limits of the individual or responsible institution.
8. Whoever conducts the interview should not engage in situations that cannot be met
The project manager should not maintain a close relationship between narrator and historian (that sometimes is not the same person who conducts the interview). The interpretation and presentation of interviews and other materials must match the impositions (and restrictions) identified in the consent document or forms relating to transfer of content. Never promise what you can’t keep.
What do you think about the importance and reliability of oral sources in historical research?