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Past and Present

When it was founded in 1964, DBHS set out to collect and preserve the stories, artifacts, and memorabilia from the area’s founding families to provide an authentic record of how we got started and where we are going. READ MORE »

Tips for Recording Oral Histories


By Kate Teves 

At the Delray Beach Historical Society, we heartily encourage our audience to share interviews, songs, and other oral histories with our archive. Keep in mind that everybody has a story – you don’t need to be famous or accomplished in any way. (Also remember there are some important ethical guidelines to keep in mind.)

Any topic is good fodder, but here are some I’m especially keen to pursue:

  • Land development
  • Race relations, segregation, integration
  • Hurricanes
  • Tourism
  • Political elections
  • September 11th
  • Beach conditions & cleanup efforts (oil waste, plastics, etc)
  • All wars – veterans and survivors
  • The New York Effect (the Yankee flood to South Florida)
  • The Great Depression
  • Fashion trends


GREAT QUESTIONS FOR ANYONE

Here are some tips from the folks at StoryCorps for how to conduct a meaningful interview. Remember, collecting an oral history is not the same as conducting hard-nose journalism. Relax!

  • Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
  • Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What is your favorite memory of me?
  • Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
  • Are there any funny stories or memories or characters from your life that you want to tell me about?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • When in life have you felt most alone?
  • If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What does your future hold?
  • What are your hopes for what the future holds for me? For my children?
  • If this was to be our very last conversation, is there anything you’d want to say to me
  • For your great great grandchildren listening to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
  • Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
  • Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?
  • If you could interview anyone from your life living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?

Visit www.storycorps.org for more tips on how to create memorable oral history projects.


TECHNICAL QUESTIONS 

Great oral history doesn’t require fancy technology! You can interview people with your iPhone! But keep in mind that it can be difficult to transfer large files from your iPhone (usually recordings longer than 8 minutes pose some trouble). We recommend recording directly to your computer.

If you would like to edit your recordings, consider using Audacity. It’s a fantastic free audio editing software.

If you are interested in creating more sophisticated field recordings, you can email me for equipment needs. Also check out recommendations online, for example this one.

Lastly, if you are interested in creating clean sit-down interviews to publish on, say, NPR, you will need to invest in a little more equipment. Email me.


SHARING YOUR RECORDINGS WITH US

We would be thrilled if you shared your field recordings with our archive! Please do not email audio files directly to me. Instead, send me a note and I’ll coordinate the best method for your files.