Google Trends (new!) on Oral History

Google Trends is the newest internet shiny toy. It measures trends for terms used in searches, and for terms appearing in Google News. Here’s the trend on Oral History. The latest high point was linked to a news story I didn’t notice (huh?). Ah, I see why. The date was April 12. Taxtime. Talk about your news blackout period. I’ll rectify that in the next post.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 11, 2006 in • Oral history in the news
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Maps and Family History (book review)

One of my favorite blogs, The Map Room, reviews Walking With Your Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide To Using Maps And Geography. Jonathan Crowe, The Map Room’s author, notes the book’s “assertion that place is central to genealogical research”– you gotta know where to look to find the good stuff, and maps are a genealogist’s friend.

What intrigues me about maps and family history is a slightly different use for them—a memory trigger. The common wisdom for conducting your oral history includes the helpful suggestion, “Use photographs and documents to help trigger the narrator’s memory to describe past events or locations.” Photos are, of course, so freakin’ obvious… First as an identification of who’s in the picture—and how they’re related, and where the picture was taken. And second, as a trigger to the significance of the persons, place, and that time. “Here’s Old Uncle Jake who used to visit us every few years. Let me tell you what he used to say when he’d come to visit us…” or somesuch. But the “and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • BooksInterviewing
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Gilroy Oral History Exhibit

The Cannery Tales. My goofy prediction: No vampires will be part of the Saturday exhibit (May 13, 3-5pm). Gilroy is California’s garlic capital, though this history is more along the lines of tomato canning. (if you want to toss tomatoes at me for my bad joke, I won’t say I don’t deserve it.) The old cannery buildings are being demolished; new development will house the oral history project.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Oral history in the news
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Help for Family Oral History at Baylor U

Some very good guidelines on family oral history at Baylor’s Institute for Oral History website. Go thou and read them. It’s a good distillation that touches on all the salient points.

On this site, I bounce between techno-geeky details of digital audio (currently in focus with the analog/digital article I just posted) and the very human-to-human methods to interview family members. The 10 steps listed on the Baylor Family Oral History site deal far more with the approach to the interview/the family history, how to structure it, how to ask questions “Ask broad, open-ended questions. Above all, be a good listener. Allow the interviewee time to think.” and coming up with a within-the-family written agreement.

The concusion of Item #2—Think far into the future to the possibilities for using and preserving the historical document you’re about to create—has this ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 04, 2006 in • Links
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Controversy over Brooklyn neighborhood oral history project

Queen Ledger: Historical Underground Railroad meets Redevelopment meets Eminent Domain meets Oral History. Result: Embattled and embittered. The oral histories are part of the battle between city and residents, and methods used in the oral history have become a part of the controversy.

The Duffield Street neighborhood was the site of the underground railroad. Should all the homes be bought by the city and sold to a developer to be made into a parking lot?

At the fight’s core is a dispute between residents and the city about whether houses along Duffield Street were part of the Underground Railroad, and thus part of a crucial piece of national history that should be preserved.

The latest saga in this fierce battle between the city and its residents centers around collecting a proper oral history of the neighborhood. Residents claim that the oral history recorded by the city is false and riddled with errors.

Oral histories were recorded in late December 2005 and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 03, 2006 in • Oral history in the newsTranscription
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Amistad Research Center in New Orleans

Louisiana Weekly profiles the Research Center, and its goals and mission, post-Katrina: Named for the slave ship whose passengers revolted and mutinied in 1839, the Amistad Research Center “is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious independent archives specializing in the history of African-Americans and other ethnic groups.”

The Center’s archives holds over six hundred manuscript collections, containing more than ten million original or one-of-a-kind documents, including rare and first edition books, photographs, manuscripts, letters, diaries and memoirs, oral histories, and videos and audio tapes.

[...]Hampton said the Amistad Center will help preserve the history of Katrina by documenting the recent Diaspora through oral history interviews, photographs, and papers, while continuing to provide photographs, documents and information on New Orleans’ history and America’s ethnic heritage. An invaluable asset to Tulane University and the city of New Orleans, the center also sponsors conferences, art ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Oral History Projects
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Quotes from Grobel’s The Art of the Interview

In an earlier post, I compared two books both titled The Art of the Interview, based on their Amazon reviews. I said that I’d prefer Perlich’s book to Lawrence Grobel’s. But Grobel’s [The Art of the Interview: Lessons from A Master of the Craft] was recently published, so it’s been easier to get ahold of. I’m happy to report that it’s a page turner. I’m still digesting some parts of it, especially the differences between the magazine interviewer for print and my interest in interviewing, an interview with a family member for history’s sake, for “getting the record.” But Grobel has some lovely metaphors about interviews which I’ll quote here.

After recounting an interview with a friend that ended the friendship (it began with highly personal, confrontative questions), Grobel says,

Why tell the story then? Because it illustrates what an interview is not, and that is, it is not just a series of tough, point-blank questions. An interview is more like a massage: You cover the entire body, you find knots and work those out. It’s like a dance, where you lead and your subject hopefully follows (And, at times, the subject leads, and you follow until you can regain control). [p29]

In the context of drawing out someone who’s unwilling to talk about himself:

Interviewing is the art of capturing and shaping smoke; it’s holding up a ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 25, 2006 in • Interviewing
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Digital Audio File Size Calculator

Sound File Size Calculator. [UPDATE: Link no longer works; the site redesigned itself and they tossed their extra little goodie] Enter the time (seconds, minutes; don’t use hours!), bit depth and sample rate (CD Audio is 16 bit, 44.1 rate), number of tracks (1 for mono, 2 for stereo), and view the resulting file size.

UPDATE (2007-05-06): I’m considering creating one of my own to put here.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 21, 2006 in • Audio
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A Digital Audio Primer

Found this primer on digital audio while looking for information about audio file sizes. The primer touches on file size, but describes so much more.


Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Audio
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New recording equipment arrived

I took a whole weekend day out of that-which-was-tax-prep to research recording equipment, weigh the options (oh how I weighed them!) and make a purchase. The results showed up this week, and I’m preparing a big ol article about my “decisions, decisions” process. Stay tuned. UPDATE: There’s much backstory to cover here, and (what I fear might be) excessive technical information; I want to go gently, and prevent sending you into a jargon-induced eye-glaze coma. So it’s turning into a multi-part set of articles. First installment will be an overview of portable recorder types. Then I’ll get into my decisions for the purchase.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Studs Terkel on The Daily Show

Studs Terkel was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. [link is to Comedy Central’s Media Player page: Windows Media Player. 7 minute interview. Site will resize your browser window.] Discussion of his new book, And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey. He’s written numerous books based on countless interviews with “ordinary people” about their lives. Studs Terkel web site; bio.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 05, 2006 in • Oral history in the news
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Found Stuff

I’m doing taxes this week, so postings will be few. When I do post, chalk it up to procrastination. One upside in my messy method madness: I just found my misplaced copy of John Neuenschwander’s Oral History and the Law, which I’d been searching for for the last coupla weeks. (And I created the “housekeeping” category for posts I make about the site itself. Painfully true, here!)

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 04, 2006 in • Housekeeping
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City Anniversary Stars “ordinary citizens”

Fremont, California — “As the Celebrate Fremont Heritage Team seeks to honor the city during its 50th anniversary, it has turned to an unlikely group to act as town historians: ordinary citizens.” Video histories have been collected by Ohlone College, the Fremont Adult School and area high schools. Exhibit April 19th at the Fremont Main Library.

The city of Fremont turns 50. Those of you from locations with longer history, shush your giggling. (I’ve been on the other side of


disbelief when I was in Scotland and telling a local about my city—-Pasadena, California’s hundredth anniversary.) Everybody’s gotta start out somewhere. And they’re getting stories from everyone from the get-go. On video.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Oral history in the news
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Oral History of Flight 93 on 9-11

Woman compiles oral history of Flight 93. Kathie Shaffer is 6 months into a 2-year project, and has interviewed 80 people so far. She expects to interview around 200. She’s interviewed first responders, Somerset County residents, and family members of Flight 93 passengers.

She said she tries to complete one interview every day.

“This is all like some gigantic puzzle,” Shaffer said. “It’s very rewarding.”

[Clergyman] Way, however, worries what emotional effect they could have on Shaffer.

“Somewhat, day to day, Kathie relives Sept. 11, 2001, through the life of somebody else,” Way said.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 03, 2006 in • Oral history in the newsOral History Projects
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Yo, Los Angeles! Learn How (free)!

Saturday, April 22, 2006, Forest Lawn is holding a workshop: Collect Your Family’s Oral History. 2-5 pm. Brad Williams is teaching it. Follow the link to reserve your spot in the workshop.

Alas, I cannot attend that day. But I attended a workshop led by Williams two years ago (held on two consecutive Saturdays); it was excellent.

Want to preserve your family’s favorite stories? Then this is your opportunity! Join us and learn how easy it is to capture those memories for future generations. Bring a favorite family story to share and a portable tape recorder, if you have one. You will practice recording your story and interviewing fellow participants about their own. Oral historian Brad Williams provides expert advice and helps you build the confidence to start immediately. Tape recorders will be available to borrow and handouts will help you when you get home.

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Do it: Learn How
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