We Are Historians - Oral History 101


What is oral history? 

Oral history uses recorded interviews to preserve firsthand memories of a person’s life, an event, a place, a way of life, or a time period. The process of creating an oral history begins with a conversation between an interviewer and a subject. This conversation is recorded, either in audio or video format. During the conversation, the interviewer can use guiding questions as prompts but mostly allows the subject to tell the stories that they want to share. The finished product is the oral historyWhether it remains within a family as a treasured recordor whether it is preserved in an archive for the benefit of researchers and the public—an oral history is a valuable historical source. 

To learn more, visit the Oral History Association’s list of resources.  


How does The Historic New Orleans Collection use oral histories? 

 Museums and archives use oral histories to tell richer, broader stories in their exhibitions and programs. The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Oral History Program records, collects, and preserves personal narratives that explore the perspectives, historical contexts, personalities, and motives of the individuals who have shaped our community. The program also seeks to reach out and conduct interviews with members of communities that have traditionally been underrepresented in museum and archival collections. This work provides our museum and research center visitors a more textured and balanced view of our collective memory. 


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