I first began conducting oral history interviews in 2004 as a part of the research for my MA thesis. Since that time, I have interviewed hundreds of individuals including fishermen in Lower Alabama; black students who desegregated Southern school systems; coal miners in Appalachia; Confederate re-enactors in South Carolina; emeritus professors and business leaders. Some of this was for my own research. Other interviews were part of my work at the Southern Oral History Program.
In the process, I have learned that very few of us can be simply understood as heroes or villains. History is the story of human beings, individuals who respond in fear and bravery to events they set in motion and yet never controlled. And many of them end up doing things they never expected, sometimes for the good of those around them and at other times doing injury to people they love. These stories can be hard to reconstruct from newspaper accounts or other sources, but they form the heart of individual memories.
If you would like to be able to use these resources to capture and retell your community’s story, I am available to head a short-term oral history project for you, or I can train your team so that you can create your own oral history archive.
If you would like for me to head your oral history project, please email me with the details about the initiative. I will specifically need to know about the topic and whose voices you would like to include. It also helps me to know something about your community and why you have decided to undertake an oral history project at this time.
Oral history training seminars are usually weekend workshops that begin on Friday night and continue all day Saturday. The curriculum is an informal, shortened version of what I offer oral history classes at the university level. Participants learn interview techniques, practice ways of handling common problems experienced in the field, grow comfortable using their recording technologies and discuss some of the potential challenges and concerns of oral history. After that weekend, I will schedule a handful of debriefings with your team as your interviewers gain field experience so that I can address the specific situations they have encountered.