Academic journal article The Oral History Review

Beyond the Page: Nonprint Oral History Resources for Educators

Academic journal article The Oral History Review

Beyond the Page: Nonprint Oral History Resources for Educators

Article excerpt

Oral history, by its very nature, lends itself well to nonprint media. An interview starts as a spoken dialogue or performance which is situated within a specific context and is then recorded on either audiotape or videotape. What remains somewhat unusual, however, is that most of the oral history resources utilized by educators are in print form. This review addresses other available media, such as videos and films, radio broadcasts, CD-ROMs, and websites, in order to illustrate how other approaches to presenting oral history material may also be useful in classrooms.(1) In some cases, these formats have specific advantages over more traditional published sources, and these will be discussed as well throughout the course of this review.

Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the amount of oral history material made available to the public through nonprint media. Much of this is due to the fact that software companies have been developing increasingly user-friendly applications which allow individuals to create websites easily and to digitize and edit video and audio. No longer do radio broadcast producers need to slice and splice analogue cassette recordings nor do video documentarians need to spend exorbitant amounts of money for time in editing bays. Most of this, particularly audio editing, can now be accomplished with moderately priced computer systems, thus making media production much simpler for oral history programs, historical societies, or teachers in the classroom.

This review will address two types of oral history resources--those that can be used to teach about oral history techniques and practices and those that supply oral histories that can be used to educate students on other subjects. Generally, websites fall into the first category while most CD-ROMs, videos, films, and radio broadcasts fall into the latter (with the notable exceptions of Edward Ives's video "An Oral Historian's Work" and the "Marjorie B. Farquhar: A Family History" CD).(2) I will begin by discussing the websites, as they are the newest resource.(3)

If you do an internet search on the phrase "oral history," the search probably will result in more than 1400 occurrences, depending upon which search engine is used. Only a few of those sites are reviewed here, but the ones that were chosen were remarkable for the reasons noted below. Many of these sites contain "how to" essays or lists for oral history novices, or they have pointers to similar locations. These resources are very useful as handouts for classes or for use by professors who are not oral historians but who are trying to introduce their students to the methodology and techniques involved.

The Oral History Association's (OHA) website is an obvious place to begin.(4) The association's pages are housed at Baylor University and contain membership and meeting information, the association guidelines, and pointers to a great number of other resources. For those getting started in oral history, this should be the first internet destination. Other web resources are remarkable for their links to other sites as well, including the homepages for the Michigan Oral History Association (MOHA), the New England Association of Oral History, and the Center for Oral History at the University of Connecticut. The MOHA pages are arguably the best site available for identifying other oral history internet sources, and they also include tips tot oral historians, a catalogue of video publications, and information on the Oral History Association's discussion list, H-Oralhist (run by Jeff Charnley of the MOHA).(5)

H-Oralhist is in itself a valuable resource for educators. A newly moderated list, its membership exchanges information on such subjects as calls for papers, meetings, archival issues, and release forms, and relevant topics are introduced by the moderator tot discussion. The list is particularly useful for those educators and researchers who are physically separated from colleagues, for beginners who are trying to get a feel for the methodology of oral history, and for teachers who are trying to get feedback on ways to start successful projects. …

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