Practicing Oral History in Historical Organizations: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Practicing Oral History in Historical Organizations

1st Edition

By Barbara W Sommer


213 pages

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It has been half a century since the last book that addressed how historical societies can utilize oral history. In this brief, practical guide, internationally known oral historian Barbara W. Sommer applies the best practices of contemporary oral historians to the projects that historical organizations of all sizes and sorts might develop. The book -covers project personnel options, funding options, legal and ethical issues, interviewing techniques, and cataloging guidelines;-identifies helpful steps for historical societies when developing and doing oral history projects;-includes a dozen model case studies;-provides additional resources, templates, forms, and bibliography for the reader.


"Practicing Oral History succeeds admirably. It gives those interested in doing oral history at any type of historical organization a primer. On top of that, it provides readers an introduction to one of oral history’s most beloved practitioners and some of her valued colleagues. It can furnish one then with a community to join, not just a book to read."— Troy Reeves, University Wisconsin-Madison, The Public Historian

"Barbara Sommer’s (2015) Practicing Oral History in Historical Organizations is a welcome addition to the field of qualitative research methodology. Generally the topics that public historians, ethnographers, and other practitioners of oral history probe are fragmented and lack human voice. Sommer’s book speaks to practitioners who collect, archive, and use oral history."— Solaiman M. Fazel, Anthropology Book Forum

"This reference work is a versatile text that can equally serve both independent practitioners working with repositories and the organizations that collect, preserve, and interpret history for pubic audiences … I would recommend it to any of those institutions who want to embark on oral history creation and curation, particularly to fill collections gaps, reach new audiences, and foster new constituencies."— Sarah Schmitt, Oral History Review

Table of Contents

Foreword Preface 1. Introduction Part One: Oral History and the Oral History Life Cycle 2. Oral History 3. The Oral History Life Cycle Part Two: Oral History for Public Audiences 4. Legal Standards and Options 5. Ethical Guidelines 6. Management 7. The Art of Interviewing 8. Stewardship Part Three: Oral History: Step by Step 9. From the Idea Through the Plan 10. The Interview 11: Preservation and Access/Use Part Four: Reflections and Resources 12. Reflections and Resources Appendix A: Oral History Process Steps Appendix B: Oral History Equipment Guidelines Appendix C: Pathways to Access Appendix D: Forms Glossary Notes Further Reading Index About the Author

About the Author

Barbara W. Sommer, M.A., has over twenty-five years of experience in the oral history field. She has been principal investigator and director of more than twenty major oral history projects at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Wesleyan University, and Vermilion Community College.

About the Series

Practicing Oral History

Oral history offers tremendous opportunities for interpreting the past and the increasingly complex present through the words of those who have lived it. The recorded interview, along with careful planning, solid background research, and archiving, form the basis of oral history methodology. Practitioners in public history, cultural heritage, library science, education, documentary, community activism, and local history groups wish to incorporate oral histories into their own work, and they need a road map for doing so.

The 'Practicing Oral History' series fills this gap. Titles consist of concise, instructive books that address the special circumstances of oral history within a specific user community. Each title provides practical tools for conducting and presenting an oral history project that interprets the best practices and ethical considerations of a particular context.

Ideas and proposals for new titles are welcome. Send queries to series editor Nancy MacKay, [email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Historiography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General