Guidelines for Conducting Oral History Interviews
Historical documents and books can’t tell us everything about our past. They often neglect people on the margins of society – ethnic communities, disabled and unemployed people for example – whose voices have been hidden from history. Oral history fills in the gaps and gives us history which includes everyone. In Doing Oral History – A Practical Guide, author Donald E. Ritchie writes that the reason for doing oral history is “to ask questions that have not been asked, to collect the reminiscences that otherwise would be lost” (p. 46).
History is all around us in the memories and experiences of older people. People you know may be able to remember historical events like World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, or the first landing of a man on the moon. Unfortunately, because memories die when people do, if we don’t record what people tell us it is history that is lost forever.