DON'T QUIT NOW!
Devoting attention to description and metadata at all stages of the process is an essential part of any oral history project.
Now that you've finished recording your oral history, there are a few more steps you can take in order to feel super confident that you are stewarding your research well. In this section we will explore tools and practices that will help insure that your work stays accessible and is ready for preservation.
Create an oral history final checklist
Refer to the OC&SEAA Final Checklist in the sidebar, or create your own similar checklist, to make sure you have all the necessary components and signed consents for your oral history.
Metadata are specific bits of information about your recording(s) that will enable discovery and access in the future. During your interview, be sure to document the following:
- Descriptive metadata: Names of individuals interviewing and being interviewed, time and place of interview, topics of conversation.
- Technical metadata: Information about the recording device used, the type of audio file produced (mp3, wav), the various version(s) of the files (i.e. is this the original or has it been edited, which edit is this?), length of recording, and size of files.
- Rights and access metadata: Who will be allowed to see/listen to this interview, will it be restricted for a certain number of years or restricted to a certain community of listeners/viewers? See Module 2: Getting support for your project and Audience and Access, or refer to Submitting Your Course Materials to SCA Tip Sheet in the sidebar.
- Administrative metadata: Information about who “owns” the oral history. Some possible owners are the interviewee, the interviewer, the project coordinator, or the institution who is paying for the project. We recommend you have clarity on this before you begin recording your oral histories.
Using structured file names is an easy way to preserve your oral history; consistent naming of files makes finding files later much easier. Each oral history should have a unique identifier assigned to it, and the files you create should contain that unique identifier and other bits of information that explain what they are without having to open them. Refer to OC&SEAA File Naming Guidelines or Submitting your Pandemic Histories Archive Tip Sheet in the sidebar for more information.
Create a unique oral history identifier.
- Create an abbreviated name of the project or acronym that the team agrees on and that will make sense long into the future (e.g. “Kerry’s Oral History Project” as “KOHP”).
- Add numbers to the end of the abbreviated project name to create a unique oral history identifier (ID). Add zeros before the number to allow for oral history IDs to grow beyond 10, 100, etc. Example: KOHP0001, KOHP0002, KOHP0003, KOHP9999.
Document the oral history ID on all accompanying papers such as consent form, interview notes, etc.
Construct your file names.
- When creating file names, the broadest information about the file should be on the left and get more specific as you move right. Use an underscore “_” to separate bits of information.
- After the oral history ID, the next bit of information should reflect what type of file this is. Create simple codes to reflect the types of files you are naming. Be sure the codes will make sense to you and others into the future. If you’re working with a team, get consensus on what makes the most sense for everyone.
- Examples: A = audio, V=video, P=photograph, T=transcript; document these abbreviations in your notes and create a key to refer to later
- For each instance of each file type, add a number to that extension. Think ahead about how many of that type of file might be included and include zeros to make space for more than 10, 100, etc.
- Examples: JOHP0051_P11 (11th photo for oral history JOHP0051), JOHP3231_P65 (65th photo for oral history JOHP3231)
If all of this feels overwhelming, try to at least be consistent when creating and naming new files.
Create a folder for your digital files
Open a new folder on your computer and name it the name of your project. Place all of the important documents (project plan, consent forms, notes) and oral history files (audio, video) in this folder. This will help you to easily find your files as you move through the project. You can create folders in Google docs, Finder (on the Mac) or File Explorer (on PC).
Transcriptions are valuable tools for providing access to oral histories to a variety of audiences. It is important to acknowledge that folx have different levels of resources (access to computers with audio capabilities for example) and abilities (we all process material differently). There are a variety of ways to create a transcription of your oral history. These include automatically generated transcripts through video recording platforms like Zoom and YouTube, and manually typed transcriptions. Some tips for creating transcriptions are below.
- Zoom: Automated transcription is available when “Cloud recording” in Zoom. A transcript could take a few hours to be delivered depending on the length of the Zoom video. The transcript will still need to be edited and checked for the spelling of names and places.
- YouTube: Setting up a private YouTube channel is recommended. Use this channel for uploading oral histories while they are not read for public access. Automated transcription becomes available after a video is uploaded. The transcript will need to be formatted and edited for spelling of names and places.
- Other transcription tools: Google docs, Vimeo, Web Captioner, and smartphone apps for transcription; see Best free way to automatically transcribe your video (YouTube).
- Manual transcription: Suggested transcription template includes (see UCSD sample transcript in the sidebar):
- Collection name
- Length of interview
- Link to the recording
- Transcriber name
- Time coding (optional?) with transcription
Tools such as ExpressScribe can help speed up the manual transcription process. For more information see OC&SEAA Transcribing Guidelines in the sidebar.
Write an abstract
An abstract is a summary of the topics covered in the interview. Its purpose is to give the user (i.e. readers, listeners, researchers) of the oral history an idea of what the interview contains without providing detail of what the interviewee says. (See: OC&SEAA Abstract Tips Sheet in the sidebar)
Tips for writing the abstract:
- The abstract is only a guide to the contents of the recording (150-200 words).
- Use the interviewee’s full name in the first sentence and then shorten it thereafter (first name or title and last name).
- Write in the present tense when referring to the interview content.
- Begin with a sentence that introduces the interviewee, his/her/their birthplace, and description about the oral history project.
- The body of the abstract can include topics like: defining characteristics, achievements, family description, education background, and previous and current occupations.
- Let the purpose of the oral history project guide the content of your abstract.
- Use words like “explains,” “describes,” and “mentions,” to give the user an idea of what is included in the interview and how much material there is on a particular topic.
- Quotes help to give an idea of how the interviewee speaks, but should be used sparingly; you are not making a transcript.
- End with points that were interesting but may not be central to the interview.
- Consider including a list of keywords/topics relevant to the individual interview and the overall oral history project.
You are encouraged to browse the Vietnamese American Oral History Project for examples of oral histories with all of their component parts (audio files, transcriptions, time logs, and abstracts/summaries) and well-formed file names.