'You start with who's alive and has a good memory, and then expand out.'
Written histories are widely recognized as integral parts of corporate culture. But, as Levi Strauss, the Louis Martini Winery and other companies are discovering, oral histories also can be valuable public relations, advertising and marketing strategies because they represent "the life of the company."
How do you create an oral history?
Willa Baum, the director of the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley, has this advice on starting an oral history: "You start with who's alive and has a good memory, and then expand out." Expanding out entails analyzing the organization's structure and attempting to characterize that through narratives with long-standing workers representing the various divisions. These will be short interviews, one to two hours, but, nevertheless, of …