Book Review: The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson — Part II


(Click here to go to this blog’s home page.)

(This post follows Part I of the review of The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson.)

* * * * *

The back cover of The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and Friends * (Click photo to enlarge.)

Specific parts of the The Oral History Workshop that I think are especially interesting deal with: 1. how to handle secrets, 2. obtaining legal clearance from the interviewee before beginning the interview (done simply with a document template included in the book), 3. common interviewee anxieties and 4. third-party problems (where three people are involved and one of them becomes domineering).

Technological explanations and concerns are also addressed.

Although the book includes 180 pages, its format allows for quick access of whatever oral history-related information I desire. This includes a sprinkling of double-page spreads throughout the book listing key points related to the several pages preceding or following the spread.

Pages 56 and 57 include “The Terrific Twenty” for those wanting a shortcut for twenty great questions to ask. These are just two of the book’s seventy pages suggesting questions to ask during an interview.  These seventy pages of questions are grouped in sixty-three categories such as “First Job and Money in the Bank,” “Coincidences and Luck,” and “Turning Points.”

Of course, no matter how informative and moving an oral history how-to book is, it is of no value until you (yes, you!) muster the get-up-and-go to actually conduct and record an interview of someone you care about of any age. (It could even be a self-interview.) This book provides the tools (except for the hardware and interviewee) that you’ll need. Time is the other necessary ingredient. There will never be the “perfect” time to conduct interviews, so, if you haven’t already recorded the history of those you care about, don’t wait…only to find out you are too late.

* Published by Workman Publishing, New York, 2009.

(Click here to go to Louise Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


2 Responses to “Book Review: The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson — Part II”

  1. Clara Hoover Says:

    I’m glad to know about these books and the help they provide. They remind me of being in an elementary school Thursday morning and seeing the fifth graders’ “portraits” posted on the wall. Each student interviewed another student, drew/colored a picture of that student and also took a picture of the student. The written interview summary, drawing and picture were all laminated on a 12″ x 18″ piece of colored paper.

    I chuckled at the misspelled words. It was obvious the students had a list of common questions to ask other students. Many had written great essays and portrayed their subjects very well. What I didn’t get was the common “XXXX didn’t have any memories of his/her birth.” Who does?! The students were asked about family members, favorite memories, role models, and things their families have done together. I hope the students save these.

  2. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Yes, I, too, hope the students (or their parents) save them. Hmmm….maybe the teacher and/or students should use some higher order thinking skills and figure out a better question than the “memories of birth” question!

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