The information below is meant to be a short-reference “how-to” guide to oral history projects sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Please add to our suggestions as needed, but be sure to meet these minimum requirements.
- Make sure to introduce the recording with your name, location, date, and then ask the subject to introduce him/herself (name and birthdate) for the record.
- QUESTIONS: Follow your gut, the personality of the subject, and the pace of the interview. Try to steer clear of “yes” or “no” questions. A good standard question to ask is what they like best about what they do—and then, of course, the follow-up: what do you like the least about what you do?
- ALWAYS ask if they have anything to add or if there’s something that hasn’t been covered that they would like to make sure to mention.
- Jot down names or words you hear during the interview that you think you’ll have trouble with later, when your creating the transcript. When the interview is over, ask for the correct spellings/clarifications.
- Try to record a formal ending to the interview by saying, “Thanks for your time,” etc.
- GET YOUR RELEASE FORM SIGNED!!
- TAKE FIELD NOTES. They’re important! They round out the subject, as well as the interview environment, and add miscellaneous details that a recording—and even photographs—cannot capture. Try to jot down your thoughts and impressions while they’re fresh.
- Send interview subject a thank-you note a day or so later.
- Send interview subject a copy of the interview on CD, plus hard transcript and at least one photographic print (their portrait, for example) when completed.
- Make sure to create a cover page, listing the following information: subject’s name, business name & location (if applicable), interview date, interview location, name of interviewer, length of interview, project it is associated with.
- Time stamps are important! Try to include a “counter” mark within the transcript at least every ten minutes of audio. EXAMPLE: [0:21:03]
- Never use ellipses (…) in a transcript. That means something has been left out. Instead, use a double-dash (—) when there’s a distinct sentence break or the conversation trails off.
- Send interview subject a copy of the transcript upon completion, as well as one of the photographic portraits.
- We prefer digital audio files (.MP3 or .WAV), but if you only have access to a cassette recorder, please do let that keep you from conducting an interview.
- Digital audio submissions should be burned to a CD with the other files.
- If submitting cassette tapes, make a duplicate copy and send us the original. *DO NOT put the only copy of an interview in the mail.
- Take a lot! You can never take too many, especially when shooting digitally.
- A portrait of your subject is, of course, most important. Take a few, if you can.
- If documenting a business, make sure to take pictures of the exterior of the building, as well as a few of the sign(s).
- A short description of each image is a wonderful thing to have in the archive. Simply create descriptive file names for the image files, e.g. johndoe_with_brotherpaul.jpg. Try to keep file names under 20 characters long. Lower case file names with no spaces (underscores are okay) is preferred.
- If interview subject shares personal photos, scan or photograph to create digital files.
- Burn to photos and descriptions to CD(s)
- If you shoot film, please make duplicate prints and, if possible, include the negatives as part of your submission.
Final submission should include (burned to a CD):
- Audio files (.MP3 or .WMA)
- Digital images (.JPEG or .TIFF) with descriptive file names
- Full transcripts (Microsoft Word document)
- Biographical sketches of interview subjects
- Field notes
- RELEASE FORM(S)! Original, as well as scanned versions on CD(s)
Send all materials to:
Amy C. Evans
Southern Foodways Alliance
PO Box 1848
University, MS 38677
Please contact the SFA’s oral historian, Amy Evans Streeter, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (662) 915-5993.
Read more about how to get involved: