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Word of Mouth: How to Create and Share Oral Histories

Description: Deciding to do oral history is an important step, but other essential choices have to be made, such as choosing to do audio or video or both; selecting the equipment; and how to process, store, and disseminate the digital files. This workshop guides attendees through all the steps of an oral history project.

Workshop at a Glance

  1.  Introductions
  2.  Oral History in the Digital Age
  3.  Online Projects
  4. Creating, Curation, and Processing
  5. Remote Oral History
  6. Other materials

10 Minute breaks every 50 minutes — breaks will be time to ask questions about your specific projects and needs (although questions are welcome any time).

Twitter: Oral_History  

Web Site — We will be demoing a number of web sites for this workshop.  You can visit them as we go along but don’t worry about taking notes, this page will remain available until next year (when it will be updated). Workshop Links (

The key is we can cover the topics that most interest you.

  1. Introductions
    1. Dean Rehberger, Director, Matrix, Michigan State University
      Mike Green, Director of Digital Lab, Matrix, Michigan State University
    2. Participants: Briefly introduce yourself, where you are from, and your interest/project for oral history.
    3. Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences
      1. Matrix (
        1. What America Ate (
          1. Map View (
          2. Montana Turkey (
      2. Matrix and Oral History (
        1. Flint ( Highly used but locked in partially stuck in dated technology.
          1. 2002 but sound standards still hold (
          2. Audio Files (
        2. Studs (
          1. Studs Place to Conversations with America (
          2. 15 minute downloads (
          3. Problem of Video (
        3. Overcoming Apartheid (
          1. Oral history in context (
          2. Power of Voice (video)(
        4. Nigerian-Biafran War (
          1. Folu Ogundimu (updated focus on video quality)(
        5. Oral History in the Digital Age (My greatest failure and success)

2. Oral History in the Digital Age

Six Key Maxims of Oral History

First Key Maxim of Oral History: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Second Key Maxim of Oral History: Always do back up — recording, files, documents, site (drives are like lightbulbs)

Third Key Maxim of Oral History: Don’t forget the metadata and b-roll.

Fourth Key Maxim of Oral History: at the beginning of a oral history project one should imagine the endpoint (museum, library, archive, historical society) and how it will and could be used (need for metadata, images, b-roll, curation practices)

Fifth Key Maxim of Oral History: Be over prepared but allow for chance and surprise.

Sixth Key Maxim of Oral History: Scheduling will be your bane — have a plan B and C

3. Online Projects

4. Curation and Processing

Preservation of Oral History

5. Remote Oral History

6. Other Links


Digital Repository and CMS — Drupal, WordPress, Omeka



Content DM


Mapping Oral History

Extra Resources

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