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Catching Stories

A Practical Guide to Oral History

Donna M. DeBlasio

Publication Year: 2009

In neighborhoods, schools, community centers, and workplaces, people are using oral history to capture and collect the kinds of stories that the history books and the media tend to overlook: stories of personal struggle and hope, of war and peace, of family and friends, of beliefs, traditions, and values—the stories of our lives. Catching Stories: A Practical Guide to Oral History is a clear and comprehensive introduction for those with little or no experience in planning or implementing oral history projects. Opening with the key question, “Why do oral history?” the guide outlines the stages of a project from idea to final product—the interviewing process, basic technical principles, and audio and video recording techniques. The guide covers interview transcription, legal issues, archiving, funding sources, and sharing oral history with audiences. Intended for teachers, students, librarians, local historians, and volunteers as well as individuals, Catching Stories is the place to start for anyone who wants to document the memories and collect the stories of community or family.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

Oral history levels the playing field of historical research.You don’t have to be a professional historian or a political mover-and-shaker to do it. Anyone with the interest, time, resources, and some training can undertake interviews for an oral history project—in a community, school, senior center, church, mosque, or temple...

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Chapter One. Why Do Oral History?

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pp. 1-19

A myriad of projects capture the interest and energies of individuals and organizations conducting oral history projects nationwide. Last week, the Women’s Circle of Shiloh Baptist voted to document this inner city church’s hundred-year history. Ed Panello’s veterans group has expressed...

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Chapter Two. Planning an Oral History Project

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pp. 20-41

A few years ago I got a call from the president of a local historical society. He asked me to meet with him to discuss the future of his organization’s oral history project. We met at his institution’s offices, where I was invited to look over the project materials.The project...

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Chapter Three. Ethics and Politics in Oral History Research

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pp. 42-55

When conducting oral history, you deliberately enter into another person’s life. To say it more colloquially, oral history involves sticking your nose into other people’s business. Questions of ethics and politics come into play in any human interaction but all the more so when you undertake a project intended for the general public...

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Chapter Four. Legal Issues

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pp. 56-81

You’re interviewing the former mayor of your city about his career as a public servant. It’s a lively session. The mayor has a treasure trove of stories about past political battles and intrigues. You ask for his opinion of the current mayor who defeated him in the last election. He doesn’t hold back. “That morally delinquent deadbeat? He’s just a sneaky, groveling office-seeker, a con man who...

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Chapter Five. Interviewing

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pp. 82-103

In Robert Redford’s Oscar-winning 1988 film, The Milagro Beanfield War (based on the novel by John Nichols), graduate student Herbie Platt arrives in a dusty, dirt-poor New Mexico hamlet. With his tape recorder slung over his shoulder, he is ready to start research. But no one told the people of Milagro (population 426) he was coming...

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Chapter Six. Transcribing Oral History

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pp. 104-114

Transcribing an oral history can loom as a daunting task for anyone relatively new to collecting interviews. Anyone engaged in oral history needs to ask the question up front: to transcribe or not to transcribe? There are many reasons for not transcribing, including lack of time, lack of proper equipment, lack of money, or just plain disinterest. The decision...

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Chapter Seven. Catching Sound and Light

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pp. 115-135

Several years ago, a university professor located a cache of reel-to- reel audiotapes about the early days of the petroleum industry at the Lima Public Library in western Ohio. Oil exploration had spread from Pennsylvania to Ohio in the 1880s, and the tapes included interviews with oil wildcatters, drillers, explosives experts, boiler stokers, and...

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Chapter Eight. Audio and Video Recording

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pp. 136-162

Learning how to use audio and video equipment can be a frustrating experience. First impressions are important—and if these are of a confusing array of controls and flashing lights, the technology may seem to be a hurdle. Unfortunately, that’s how audio and video recording is often presented at training sessions. The oral historian...

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Chapter Nine. Archiving Oral History

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pp. 163-176

While working on an exhibit relating to local and regional amusement parks for the Summit County Historical Society (Ohio) more than two decades ago, I found primary source materials to be quite scarce. However, when I was installing the exhibit in a local shopping mall weeks later, scores of passersby stopped to view the photographs and artifacts. Many of these people shared firsthand memories...

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Chapter Ten. Funding

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pp. 177-195

Raising money for an oral history project? It’s not nearly as exciting as planning the project, doing the interviews, and sharing them with audiences. However, unless you have a professional fund-raiser on staff, it’s a task you’ll need to take on. Approach it with the same energy and passion that you bring to every other aspect of the project.You need...

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Chapter Eleven. Sharing Oral History

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pp. 196-212

You’ve collected oral history interviews. Now what will you do with them? Since oral history’s inception, researchers and others have used these histories in a multitude of ways. They were originally used mainly by people researching material for publication. Scholars in particular have long treated oral histories as primary sources, although...


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pp. 213


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pp. 215-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780804040402
Print-ISBN-13: 9780804011174

Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Interviewing -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  • Oral history -- Methodology.
  • Oral history -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
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