Starting an Oral History Project? 

With planning and practice, you can begin recording oral histories with your family or community by learning more about the oral history interviewing process. 

A primary source in historical research, oral histories offer a subjective understanding of history by sharing lived, personal experiences. To successfully record an oral history, interviewers should be well-informed and prepared before they start their interview. 

Steps to Prepare for Conducting an Oral History:  

  1. Select someone to interview. Consider what you’d like to ask and what you hope to learn.
  2. Request permission to interview your selected person and set a time and date at a quiet location.
  3. Research your interviewee. Background information helps develop questions that will help them remember important details. 
  4. Share a general list of topics with your interviewee before the interview so they have time to prepare.
  5. Practice using your equipment ahead of time to ensure your recording goes smoothly.
  6. Send a date and time reminder before your scheduled interview.
  7. Ask your interviewee to sign a release or permission form before recording. 
  8. Conduct your interview. Remember to ask open-ended questions and take notes for follow-up questions.
  9. Archive your recording with a clearly marked label and store it in a safe location such as an external hard drive or secure online storage. 
  10. Share! Well-conducted oral histories offer invaluable and unique insight into understanding the past. Your contribution is important.


Learn from the experts!

Library of Congress Research Guides

History, Art, & Archives

Smithsonian Institute

The American Folk Life Center

Oral History Association

Voice of Witness

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

Self Evident