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Oral historians learn about the past by interviewing people about their lives. Professional practitioners are skilled historians who engage in deep research, conduct informed interviews, and preserve interview materials for use by others.
But you don’t have to be a pro to conduct a good interview. This course for aspiring professionals and lay people alike will introduce you to some of the formal aspects of oral history practice.
We’ll begin by discussing the origins and goals of the field, then delve into the nuts and bolts of oral history tools and practice. We’ll talk about conceiving and executing a community- or family-based project, preparing for and conducting evocative interviews, recording and transcribing interviews, and issues related to power, ethics, and consent.
In addition, we’ll consider how we make use of oral history interviews in books, articles, plays, exhibits, and websites. Reading excerpts from classic and contemporary oral history texts will help pave the way for conducting your own interview, as well as the option for discussing your work in the final class session.
Kim Heikkila, PhD, University of Minnesota, left academia in 2016 to launch Spotlight Oral History, through which she has interviewed veterans, activists, restaurateurs, judges, and others. Her first oral history-based book, Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011), was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award; her second, about the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital in Saint Paul, is forthcoming.