As an MSLS student at the University of Kentucky, I went through the LIS 642 course, which is Oral History. The course was fascinating and felt more like an interactive workshop than a regular class. The professor taught us how to conduct oral history interviews along with going over several oral history examples and studies. She recorded her weekly lectures so students could listen through Blackboard (my degree was totally online). The final portion of the course was spent on an oral history project.
I don’t want these course posts to get insanely long, so I’m going to restrict my comments to the most important aspects and provide some links.
We had three textbooks: The Oral History Reader, Doing Oral History, and Curating Oral Histories: from Interview to Archive.
I’m also going to link a Google doc of my first weekly assignment. We were asked to briefly answer if oral history is useful or not to the study of history.
My final project was an interview with a tattoo artist (the interview now belongs to the KOHC, but I do not yet know if it has been archived), a paper detailing my experience, a partial transcript, and submission to the Kentucky Oral History Commission.
I think the transcription process was one the most nerve-racking things I’ve done. I thought the interview process would have me pulling out my hair, but it was enjoyable. This is the recorder I purchased for the class. It worked like a charm and let me get my hands on some new tech learning experiences.
Overall, the course forced me to pay attention to individual experiences in addition to the overall historical perceptions of events. It also had me watching my behavior and interactions with people from which I’m trying to get relevant information. I listen more, allow those very important lulls and pauses to happen, and find myself experiencing peoples’ memories in a new way.
I hope to, one day soon, do a series of interviews with my Mother. She’s lived a fascinating life, and I’d like to preserve her memory and experiences. The Oral History course gave me the tools to (let’s hope) pull this off.