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May 7, 2014 — By Savannah Warren
As I have mentioned before, I am currently in grad school working on a Masters in Library Science. One of my classes this semester is an Oral History class and it has really surprised me because I had known so little about the subject before. I had always thought Oral History was just any recorded history, but that isn’t true. It turns out it is a very specific type of recording and it is done in very precise ways. It is truly a form of art as the interviewers must take a lot of time and do a lot of work to prepare and curate the histories they produce. I won’t bore you with all the details about what goes into an oral history and its importance but I will include a few websites at the end of this that explain pretty well.
In short is a study of information using audiotapes, videotapes or transcripts of interviews. The interviews are done with people who have lived through certain events and have firsthand accounts they would like to share. There are a couple of interviews that I have listened to this year that I found really interesting. One is an interview of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis conducted by Terry Birdwhistell(www.kentuckyoralhistory.org/interviews/19058) The other is one that I am currently indexing. It is an interview with a Margaret Gage who was a member of the Frontier Nursing Service. The UK Louie B Nunn Center for Oral History has a great collection of interviews most of which are available online. It is worth checking out. Here is the link. http://www.kentuckyoralhistory.org/
The process for collection and curation is a long and expensive one according to my professor but transcribing, digitizing, sharing and keeping up with legal issues is something that I find very interesting. We recently read about a fascinating ongoing legal case with Boston College. Here is the link if you are interested. www.npr.org/2011/06/15/137196876/a–‐fight–‐to–‐keep–‐northern–‐ireland–‐interviews–‐secret
I don’t know how I didn’t know about this resource earlier in my schooling. The amount of information in these recordings is immense. I know it would have come in handy during my bachelors studies. Maybe as it becomes more accessible with electronic resources and the internet more people will be able to use these vast stores of information.
Here is a link to a great oral history website. http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/