LEARN NC

Oral history in the classroom

By Kathryn Walbert and Jean Sweeney Shawver

Organizations and programs

Oral History Association
This site includes information about OHA events and on joining the OHA, as well as information on their many useful oral history publications.
Southern Oral History Program, UNC-Chapel Hill
This extensive website provides information about the latest research conducted by the SOHP, including interview excerpts that you can read and listen to online. You will also find detailed instructional information, a well-developed bibliography, and a series of links.
Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University
The Center for Documentary Studies uses photography, filmmaking, oral history, folklore, and writing as tools to explore community life. The site includes exhibits, information about current documentary projects, and Putting Documentary Work to Work, a "step-by-step guide designed to help community organizations develop and conduct their own documentary projects using a camera and tape recorder."

Instructional/how-to

Practical Guide from the Southern Oral History Program
This comprehensive site features an electronic version of the SOHP’s popular guide book, information about recording equipment, tips for successful interviews, and copies of the SOHP’s release forms and other official documents.
Baylor’s Introduction to Oral History
These pages provide in-depth information on interviewing technique, possible uses of completed interviews, and ethical considerations. An extensive bibliography makes this site a very valuable resource.
Oral History in the Teaching of U.S. History (ERIC Digest)
Why and how to conduct an oral history project, with references.
How to Prepare and Conduct an Oral History Interview
Dos and don’ts for planning, conducting, and preserving an oral history interview, with sample topics and questions for a life history interview. From KBYU, Brigham Young University.
Tips for Oral History Interviewers
Good, quick advice from Willa K. Baum, Oral History for the Local Historical Society.

Lesson and unit plans using oral history

Oral History and Social History
From the Library of Congress Teachers section. "This lesson presents social history content and topics through the voices of ordinary people. It draws on primary sources from the collection titled “American Life Histories, 1936-1940.” Using excerpts from the collection, students study social history topics through interviews that recount the lives of ordinary Americans. Based on these excerpts and further research in the collections, students develop their own research questions. They then plan and conduct oral history interviews with members of their communities."
Immigration and Oral History
From the Library of Congress Teachers section. "The primary goal of this activity is to give students the genuine experience of oral history in order to appreciate the process of historiography. We identified immigrants in our community who reflect the ethnic diversity of our student body, enabling students to compare and contrast the stories of these contemporary immigrants with those researched in the thirties reflected in “American Life Histories, 1936-1940″ and other collections. Students engage in visual and information literacy exercises to gain an understanding of how to identify and interpret primary historical sources."

Student projects on the Web

What Did You Do in the War, Grandma?
An Oral History of Rhode Island Women During World War II, produced by students in the Honors English Program at South Kingstown High School, 1995. The Web site includes transcripts of twenty-six interviews conducted by students, as well as background about the topic and the project and a brief essay called "Teaching English via Oral History."
The Whole World Was Watching: An Oral History of 1968
A joint project between South Kingstown High School and Brown University’s Scholarly Technology Group in which 10th-grade students interviewed Rhode Islanders about the year 1968. The website contains transcripts, audio recordings, and edited stories from the interviews. "Their stories, which include references to the Vietnam War, the struggle for Civil Rights, the Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy as well as many more personal memories are a living history of one of the most tumultuous years in United States history."
The Stories of the People
Rocky Gap High School students in Rocky Gap, Va., have interviewed members of their community and posted transcripts to the web. The site is based in the Bland County History Archives, and it includes links to Rocky Gap High School as well as other oral history sites.
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