The Louisiana Folklife Program has a page, In the wake of the hurricanes, devoted to “collecting our stories and preserving our culture.” There are some excellent resources on that page for interviewing Hurricane Katrina survivors and responders. Why might this be of interest to someone who is not from the Gulf area? (I’ve been thinking about interview questions today). Disasters happen. People are affected—both the survivors and those who respond. These are a good starting place to elicit details about a major disaster experience. And there are a huge number of people affected by Katrina and Rita, too. Too– the Gulf diaspora is so widespread that there may be survivors and responders close by.
The Remembering Site —Sharing our collective memories— is a website where you can join, and be presented with a host of questions to answer. It’s like writing a personal memoir, in small stages. The site is primarily devoted to text and writing recollections. But the nonprofit foundation offers audio recording services, too. One co-founder, DG Fulford (together with her brother Bob Greene) wrote a book To Our Chidren’s Children, an excellent book of questions to spark memory and recollection.
You sign up for the site, pay $10, and are guided to answer as many or as few of the myriad questions presented. Here are a few from the page of sample questions (that’s 4 of 32; go the page for all of ‘em). I like them for the way that they pull for specifics and sensory details, but if you’re going to be asking questions in a conversation, I wouldn’t ask multiple-point questions:
Did your grandparents live nearby? How often did you visit their homes? Did the house have a special cooking smell? Onions? Cookies? What did their couch feel like? How big was the kitchen?
Do you remember “getting” a concept in school? Cursive writing, maybe? Do you remember the moment when you first ...Read More
Traverse City, Michigan: The Voices Project presents “What Will Be in the Fields Tomorrow,” a Readers Theatre piece that took shape from oral history interviews for a documentary about small farmers and the challenges they face.
[Cynthia Vagnetti, Agriculatural/Rural Life researcher and Julie Avery, historian] decided that the project had wings beyond the television documentary that Vagnetti original created. They decided to give the piece a “stage presence” in order to let these voices continue their message. What they came up with is a Readers’ Theatre piece that gives a vehicle for the voices of farm women from the mid-west.
“Readers’ Theatre is often used by playwrights to get input into their work before it’s staged,” she said. “But also increasingly Readers’ Theater, as a process, is used a lot with social issues.”
Google search on “What Will Be In The Fields Tomorrow”...Read More
The Center is named for Louie B. Nunn, former Kentucky governor; it includes interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other prominent Kentuckians in state and national public life. The center’s website with list of collections.
National Indigenous Times: A documentary film about a 1916 massacre. “The Mowla Bluff Massacre tells of a little known moment in the Kimberley in 1916, but one that was typical of the Australian frontier experience. In the documentary, an Aboriginal community in Australia’s tropical northwest recounts the story of the execution of family members at Mowla Bluff by police and local pastoralists.”
Here’s a fascinating paragraph:
The oral history version of the story still carried by Nyikina, Mangala and Karijarri Elders today is substantially in accordance with the Aboriginal eyewitness statements documented but then dismissed by the police in 1918. This is despite the fact that these statements were buried in the police archives for the next 80 years and unknown to them.
Why fascinating? I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the role of memory, which can be a trickster: Oh, it’s unreliable, you oughtta have documents. Well, here’s the best part of uncovering the past: when the stories told from memory coincide with the documents.
Richard Hess has a new blog– Restoration Notes about restoration of tape recordings and digital transfer. He’s one of my heroes when it comes to digital audio. His knowledge about tape and formats is detailed and vast. He’s the go-to guy to pull audio off of tape that may be destroyed or otherwise gone to audio no-man’s-land.
I met Richard when he taught an audio restoration workshop at Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Public and Oral History. Back when he lived 2 cities over (that’s “nearby” in Southern California-speak… he since moved to Ontario, Canada), I visited his audio restoration home office and we whiled away a happy afternoon as audio geeks talking shop. Well, okay, he was mostly talking, and I was young Grasshopper, taking it all in. I’ve blogged about him before.
I hope to have an interview with Richard on this site, too.
[disclosure: I gave Richard some advice on the software he used for his blog while he was setting up his site.]
Field Research, as in field recording, as in portable audio recording equipment. As in information about solid state field recorders, and digitizing and editing recorded audio. Very good information from the Vermont Folk Life Center.
I learned about the Vermont Folk Life Center from reading the Oral History mailing list. Andy Kovalos always has a good word on the ins and outs of digital tools. He recently wrote to the list and said that they’d re-vamped their field recording guides. These pages are definitely worth a read.
At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews David Isay, founder of the StoryCorps project. It turns out that Amy Goodman is the one who gave David Isay his start. One radio documentary in particular showed Isay how significant asking questions on tape was in the lives of everyday people (quote follows after the jump). Isay also talks about Danny Perasa and Annie Perasa, who’ve become a kind of figurehead for the StoryCorps project. Danny came down with a fatal illness. NPR aired one last StoryCorps-style interview last Friday on Morning Edition. Later that day, Danny died.
I did a documentary about 13, 14 years ago with two kids growing up in a housing project in Chicago called the Ida B. Wells Projects where I gave them tape recorders and had them do a diary of their lives. I saw that when these kids took these tape recorders and interviewed say, their grand parents, that having a microphone and laying in bed with their grandmother and asking her these questions, allowed these kids to ask questions they wouldn’t normally get to ask. And created bonds that existed long after the tape recorder got turned off. And then when these relatives passed away, these tapes became enormously important to these young men. So that was really the beginning of Story ...Read More
Boys and Girls, do try this at home!! Storycorps has a Rent a StoryKit. Minidisc recorder, two discs, microphone, headphone and users guide. $100/week. Requires $500 deposit.
This is pretty smart. They have the equipment, send it to you, tell you how to do the conversation, you do it, send it back, and they create the Audio CD and send that to you, and a copy goes to the American Folklife collection at the Library of Congress.
Why is it smart? All the benefit of the studio in the trailer experience, and you don’t have to go shopping for equipment and puzzling over the options. Also good if StoryCorps hasn’t come to town, or if StoryCorps came to town right after the holidays and by the time you found out about it, It Was Too Late.
At What Caught My Eye: More on M-Audio Microtrack, with review highlights shared by Tim Locke at the BBC News. While the comments are generally positive, he notes a couple potential gotchas.
5. There’s no pause+record function - so you can’t tweak your record levels before starting recording.
6. Accidentally hitting the navigation button and inadvertantly pausing during a recording is a too easy.
And, finally, the Broadcast & Podcast Gadgets site is written from the Netherlands. His distance from it is not shared by me. M-Audio is headquartered in the city next door. (And I want to go get a tour there).
I’m listening to today’s broadcast of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, which is discussing the President Reagan Oral History project. And playing excerpts. The guest is Steven Knott, associate professor and overseer of the Ronald Reagan Oral History Project at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. You can listen to the show with Real Player or Windows Media Player.
The discussion bounces back and forth between discussing Oral History (what it can and can’t do), President Reagan and his administraton, and the challenges that historians have in describing and analyzing a presidential administration. Oral History: “This is just one resource of which we’re very proud. ... documents can also be self-serving.” The transcripts will be available online on January 29th.
The Talking Points Memo Cafe Book Club focuses this week on The Osama bin Laden I Know: An oral history of al Qaeda’s Leader, by Peter L. Berger. With book excerpt and discussion of the Oral History Method used in the book
Peter Bergen’s own discussion to how he got started with this book—- a biographical treatment of bin Laden through those who’ve known him:
During the course of our chat, [the governor of a province in Afghanistan, Haji Deen] Mohamed, a genial white-haired former mujahideen commander, mentioned in passing that he had known bin Laden reasonably well in the 1989 to 1991 time period when the Saudi millionaire was helping the Afghan war effort against the communists. That comment started me thinking about who else might have spent time with bin Laden, who might be willing to speak to me. As it turned out there were around fifty people that I spoke to directly, who had had some encounter ...Read More
IN 1938, a casual encounter in Washington, DC, inspired one of the most remarkable documents in American music and culture. Alan Lomax, the young director of the American Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, heard that Jelly Roll Morton, a legendary pianist-composer from the bygone days of New Orleans jazz, was languishing in a seedy local club.
...Though Lomax actually disliked jazz, considering it a corruption of folk-music purity, he invited Morton to the Library of Congress to record some of his New Orleans memories. The moment the veteran pianist began to talk, play and sing, Lomax realised he had struck gold. That one-off interview stretched into months, ...Read More
MemoryMiner is a MacOS app that’s more than the means to annotate your collection of family photos: It provides options for identifying people and their relationships, the time and place of photo, or places a person has lived or a person’s life. Echoing the interconnectedness of person, places and events, the software builds up a in order to build up a portrait of a person and family relationships. Further, it has the ability to attach audio files to pictures. Hooray! Now my Mom, who won’t learn to type, but is the repositor of family info, can “talk about” the photo and date and time, and not be held back by the tangle of fingers and keyboards.
I watched the demo movie once—it requires QuickTime 7, it would seem. Which I used to view the movie elsewhere, but not at this machine. Anyway, it was an amazing demo movie. Here are pictures of a person. For each, you identify who the person is, what relationship the person is to you (Grandmother, Aunt, Great-Aunt, etc.), when the picture was taken—specific time or approximate. You can draw marquees around different people in the photograph to identify more than one person to a photo. View photos of one person, or this person and that person. Drop an audio file (and thereby link it) to an image. Or create a text annoation of the image. Further, you can identify places where photos ...Read More
Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History. She begins with the best word of advice there is: Just Do It, and follows with lots of practicalities.