Oral History: Bringing Together Your Community to Record Your Towns History

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Preserving history through oral tradition has been around since the beginning of time. Today, however, we have the means to take spoken histories and preserve them in print and/or with electronic devices. Universities and sociologists are always looking for volunteers to gather the oral history of communities around the world. Isn’t it time you participated in preserving history? Read on to find out how to do just that. 

Form a committee. The members of your committee need to be as dedicated as you are to preserving the history of your community. Choose members who can offer varying viewpoints and ideas. Keep your committee fairly small but well staffed with dedicated people. 

Determine precisely what you are looking to record. Follow the basic guidelines of research projects – make a list of what you already know and another list of what you need to know. Decide how you will present the material once it is gathered. Will you publish a book or offer a presentation to the community? Draft a calendar of target dates. 

Develop guidelines. Decide how you will do your research and what resources you will use. Prepare forms to keep track of the materials you gather for the project. Keep meticulous records of all donations and of all people who support the project. 

Decide on a budget. Where will funds come from? You can look for funds from private organizations in the form of grants. You can hold fundraisers in the community. You can request donations from members of the community. Keep records of all donations and other funding. Designate someone on the committee to be in charge of the budget. 

Go forth and record history. Interview members of the community. Visit local museums and libraries and interview the staff. Photograph historical places within the community to go with your oral history. 

More Gentle Tips:

? Be patient with interviewees. 

? When interviewing, ask leading questions. 

? Back up all data frequently. 

? Oral histories are protected by U.S. copyright law. 

? When interviewing, don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. 

Be sure to check out http://www.double-roads.com for more great tips on journaling and memoir writing.

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