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Retired Faculty Association

Serving the needs and interests of retired faculty.

Oral History: The Planning Process

What's the objective? To make sure a record is kept? To share the record with others? To put the record in an archive where it can be used by others? To publish and distribute the record for some goal or purpose? To commemorate an anniversary or a milestone?

Will the record be formal or informal? Informal means "turn on the tape recorder and let's see what happens." Formal involves considerable planning and arranging.

Will one person be recorded or many? Alone or together? Any combination is viable depending upon the objective. The more people involved, the more complicated.

What's the focus? Are we recording everything about our family or organization, or just one part of the story, such as the family business, the career of one family member, etc.

What will the media format be? Audio tape? Video tape? Transcripts of audio/video tapes? Unedited or edited? "Presentation" copies or "archive"copies?

Who will organize the project? A family member? A family member with expertise? A hired expert or firm? Someone from an oral history project? An artist?

What's the time frame? It could be done at the next family reunion. It could be done in time for an event. It could be done over the next year. It could be a lifetime project.

What are the resources? The cost can range from $10 to $100,000.

What will the content format be? A series of interviews? A group interview? Interviews plus visual footage of artifacts and memorabilia? Titles? Commentary? Will the material be unedited and presented in full, or edited to make a coherent story?

Who will be the interviewer/recorder/editor/commentator? A family member? An historian? An expert or hired presenter?

Will the subject matter and questions be agreed upon in advance? If so, will the preparation cover "general areas for discussion" or "specific agreed-upon questions"?

Who will be allowed to review the recordings, and what rights do they have? Is the project in the hands of the creator, or must approval be received from participants?

Who will bear the costs? Has one person or organization agreed to take charge of the entire project and make copies for all interested parties? Can the cost be shared by participants? Will the final project be offered to libraries/archives for their collections?

ORAL HISTORY: Internet Resources Step-by-step guide to oral history. (You must capitalize the "H" in "oralHistory") No-nonsense linear discussion of everything to consider when planning o.h. interviews. Huge site with many categories of information and many links to other sites. "Cyndi's List" provides a list of genealogy sites on the Internet. Note: keep scrolling down past the gratuitous graphics to get to the information. Another commercial site, where you can order (for $25) a CD manual on how to archive your family history digitally. The CD can be printed out. It offers a wide range of practical examples of how to archive your family history. Vast trove of information about Columbia U's huge collection of oral histories. Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II.

(This list compiled by Todd Hunt, Director, Retired Faculty Association of Rutgers University.)

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