Gather oral history while you can - Word&Way

Gather oral history while you can

The Partee Center for Baptist Historical Studies and the Missouri Baptist Historical Society have launched a new oral history program to benefit Missouri Baptists. “Every person, church and organization has a story to tell,” according to a Partee Center news release.

The Partee Center is willing to offer assistance and has released 10 steps to ensure a successful interview. Here they are:

1. Select an interviewee who is willing to share his or her experiences openly. Research the subject and give that person a list of specific questions to be asked at the interview. Become very familiar with the basic story in order to prepare relevant and thoughtful questions. Allow the interviewee at least two weeks to review the questions and make notes in order to have a more productive session. This time will give the person a chance to clarify dates and facts before sharing them in a recording session.

2. State before the interview begins that there will be no “off the record” conversations.

3. Use a good quality video camera or audio recorder that will create a clear recording. Set the camera/recorder up in a way that is unobtrusive to the interview process. Be sure to double-check that the machine is working properly.

4. At the beginning of the interview state the person’s full name, date and location of the interview. Also, be sure to state who is conducting the interview.

5. Ask questions previously given to the recipient. Allow the person to expand if necessary, but don’t stray from the original intent of the question. The interviewee may be nervous about being asked sensitive questions, so by assuring them that they were given all the questions in advance, they will be more comfortable.

6. As interviewer, you can ask for clarification in responses ,but do not add your own commentary, judgments or accounts of a story. Don’t push an interviewee to answer a question he/she doesn’t want to discuss. Also, keep the interviewee on subject and do not allow the conversation to drift in other directions.

7. Conduct only one interview at a time. Interviewing more than one person at a time leads to discussion between the two, which sometimes leads the interview off course.

8. When the interview is complete, transcribe it exactly like it was spoken. Give a copy to the interviewee and allow the person a couple of weeks to make notes. This will give him/her a chance to clarify misspoken facts.

9. Send a copy of the recording and transcript to the Partee Center for safekeeping. Also, include any additional biographical materials and photographs of the interviewee to add to the file.

10. Before the interview takes place have the interviewee sign a release form. The Partee Center cannot accept materials without authorization from the interviewee.

To participate or to learn more, call Partee archival director Angela Stiffler at 816-415-7620 or e-mail