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Oral History: A How-To Guide: Home


Oral History: A How-To Guide

This how-to guide has been created to assist students in learning about how to do oral history. It contains links that will run searches in the online catalog for books on doing oral histories. There are also links to authoritative Internet documents on performing oral history interviews, as well as some sample oral history projects from around the country. Finally, on the video tab, you will find videos that explain the basics of the process of preparing for, performing, and then presenting, oral history materials, as well as some videos of sample oral history interviews . We hope you find this guide helpful.

If at any time you need help, click the Ask-A-Librarian link on the blue bar at the top of the screen.


Oral History: Defined

Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies.

In Doing Oral History, Donald Ritchie explains, “Oral History collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews.  An oral history interview generally consists of a well-prepared interviewer questioning an interviewee and recording their exchange in audio or video format.  Recordings of the interview are transcribed, summarized, or indexed and then placed in a library or archives. These interviews may be used for research or excerpted in a publication, radio or video documentary, museum exhibition, dramatization or other form of public presentation. Recordings, transcripts, catalogs, photographs and related documentary materials can also be posted on the Internet.  Oral history does not include random taping, such as President Richard Nixon’s surreptitious recording of his White House conversations, nor does it refer to recorded speeches, wiretapping, personal diaries on tape, or other sound recordings that lack the dialogue between interviewer and interviewee.”

      from the Oral History Association website:

Examples of Oral Histories Online

This is just a very small selection of oral histories available online.

Search the Online Catalog for Books

Click a link below to see all materials in the online catalog under that subject heading. To access any of the electronic books off-campus, you will need to enter your Multipass information.

Selected books

Click on a book title to see if it is available or in use.