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Recording and Sharing Your Interview

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Make sure to record your oral history interview so that you can save it and share it with others!

Before the Interview

Days before you conduct the interview, you should decide how you are going to record it. It is often more interesting to watch a video than to listen to an audio recording, but some people feel uncomfortable being recorded on a video camera. Talk to your narrator and decide which type of recording would be most comfortable for him or her.

After you’ve decided which type of recording to make, learn how to use the device. Make sure you know how to start and stop recording. You also need to make sure you have all the necessary equipment. Do you need to charge a battery or bring a power cord? If you are using a digital device, how much memory do you have available? If you are using a non-digital device, how many tapes will you need? Will you need a tripod or a table to rest the camera or audio recorder on? You might want to use a microphone that can sit on a stand or clip onto your narrator’s clothes so that his or her voice is recorded clearly. Test your equipment a few times before the interview in order to make sure it works. You might have to ask your parent or another adult for help.

Release Forms

After you’ve conducted your interview, you may decide to give the recording, transcript, or project to a library, university, archive, or other historical organization that will save and preserve the interview for years to come. Sharing the oral histories that you collect with these kinds of institutions allows other people to search for them and read them. When you contribute your own interviews and research to the historical record, you expand everyone’s knowledge of history.

It is good practice to have your narrator sign a release form at his/her interview. A release form explains who is interviewing, who is being interviewed, and what parts of the interview you are allowed to share with other people as well as with institutions. If you aren’t sure how to fill out a release form, here is Stefanie’s example. Then you can download our basic release form and have your narrator sign it at the interview.

Equipment Checklist

  •  Recording device
  • Memory cards, CDs, or tapes to record onto
  • Power cord or charged batteries
  • Tripod or stand
  • External Microphone(s)
  • Extension cords
  • Notepad
  • Pens/pencils
  • Questions

Setting Up

When all of your equipment is set up, first take a sample recording to test to make sure that your recording device is working and that you can hear both you and the narrator on the recording. If you are making a video recording you need to decide if you will be on the video or if your recording will only show your narrator. 

Recording an Opening Announcement

To make sure that you (and others) know who and what is being recorded, you’ll need to record an opening announcement. After you’ve turned on the recorder, say the following:

“This is (your name) and I am here with (narrator’s name) to record his/her life history as part of the (name of your project). Today is (date) and we are at (place/address). (Narrator’s name), do I have your permission to record this interview?”

As an example, you might say:

"This is Stefanie and I am here with my grandmother Diane Emily Weinstock to record her life history as part of my bat mitzvah project. Today is February 23, 2011, and we are at my grandma’s apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Grandma Di, do I have your permission to record this interview?"

After the Interview

Immediately after the interview, make sure to save and protect your recordings. If you’ve recorded onto a tape or CD, label the tape or CD with the name of the person you interviewed, the place, and the date. If you used more than one tape, also write "1 of 2" or "2 of 2," etc., so that you don’t lose them. Pack them away in a safe place until later.

If you are digitally recording onto a memory card or device, make sure to download the recordings onto your computer as soon as possible to avoid deleting or recording over them. Save the files with the name of your narrator and the date of your interview so you can find them later. If you have more than one file, also include "Part 1," "Part 2," or "Part 3," etc., in the file name, so that you know the order.

Photographs and Other Artifacts

Photographs are another type of recording you can make. If you bring a camera to the interview, you can photograph your narrator or get a picture of the two of you together. If your narrator brings an object to share, you can also take a picture of the object (like an old dress or a favorite toy) and add it to your collection. As with the recordings, make sure to save and label the files on your computer with the name of the narrator, the date, and a description of the object.

If you have hard copies of photographs, you might want to scan them, especially if they are not your own. The same goes for old newspaper or magazine articles, birth certificates, wedding announcements, artwork, etc. Saving these kinds of objects can be tricky, so ask an adult for help. You may also want to read some more tips on preserving family papers.

Sharing Your Interview

There are many ways you can share your interview with others. In each case, please make sure you have the permission of your narrator before you share the interview. See our ideas below!

  • Create a Project
    In My Gallery you can upload pictures and clips from your interview and put them into a project. You can also add your own pictures, writing, and materials from the website!
  • Write a Speech or Letter
    Many girls give a d’var torah as part of their bat mitzvah celebration. Using your torah portion as a guide, you can incorporate the stories of your narrator into your speech. Even if you aren’t going to have a traditional bat mitzvah in a synagogue, you can write an essay or letter about your interview and send it to a local newspaper. You could also make a video to send to your family and friends in an email!
  • Use It at Your Party
    If you are going to have a party or celebration, think about how you can share the stories from your interview at the event. Are there quotations or photographs you could use as decorations? Maybe you would like to show a video of your favorite part of the interview. You could also write something short to hand out to people when they come in or share it as part of a “toast” or candlelighting ceremony.

Do you have other suggestions of creative ways to share your interviews? Let us know!

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