Life before books. Requires a living story-teller to recount tales that have been passed down over uncountable ages by the telling and re-telling. This was used by bards and tribe elders of innumerable cultures to propagate myths, history, and ideas. Moral lessons, and imagination. Such stories included tales about humans raised by wolves or how the moon was a Scarab.

Oral history is a technique that many modern historians practice. Historians such as Steven Ambrose interview hundreds - even thousands - of people and piece the historical story together in the words of the actual participants. The author's narrative voice and personal subjectivity is minimized.

Many colleges and regional historical societies practice a similar technique. They want to preserve the memories of elder citizens. Personal recollections, anecdotes, and lives are being recorded in audio format and preserved for the future.

Here is a tip from the UC Berkeley Library:

The One-Minute Guide to Oral History Interviewing by Carol Hicke
  • Ensure that equipment is functioning properly.
  • Label tapes with names interviewer, narrator, date, tape number.
  • Take outline, photos, clippings to interview.
  • Obtain signature on release agreement.
  • Develop rapport but remain neutral.
  • Ask who, what, where, when, why, how.
  • Remain polite but firmly in control.
  • Listen carefully--and pursue new topics.
  • Use silence.
  • Ask for examples and anecdotes as illustrations.
Copyright (C) 1997-2000 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley

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