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  • 1.  Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 02-28-2020 10:53 AM
    Does anyone have any insights into taking oral histories over the telephone - how to record, legal release forms, etc.

    Bonita Risley
    Avalon Free Public Library History Center
    Avalon NJ

  • 2.  RE: Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 03-02-2020 05:54 AM
    I have done them for the American Legion.  I tape the conversation for notes and get their release verbally and then back up the call to the webI.  My best Charlie

    Charles Costello USArmy, Retired
    History Research Consultant
    Penobscot Marine Museum
    Searsport ME

  • 3.  RE: Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 03-02-2020 09:12 AM
    Hi Bonita - 

    Recording: You can get a free app for smartphones -- search for "voice recorder." Mine only works for calls when I have it on speakerphone. Or, conference call services, like, include a "record" feature that can be downloaded after the call.

    Legal: Certainly get verbal OK on the recording that the conversation is being recorded. However, it doesn't seem like formal documents are required (although you can always have one) because you own the recording of the interview. It's not like written materials, photos, recorded music, or videos where the other party is the owner.

    Greg Moss
    Museum Planning Committee
    International Society of Antique Scale Collectors (
    Pittsburgh, PA

  • 4.  RE: Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 03-02-2020 11:25 AM
    There are several recorders available for Skype, including one embedded in the Skype system itself, which I've used successfully in the past.

    Melissa Leventon
    [Curatrix Group]
    San Francisco CA

  • 5.  RE: Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 03-02-2020 12:07 PM
    As several people have mentioned, there are apps available, but if you're concerned about reception or anything, the last place I worked we did a phone oral history, and bought a small piece of tech ($15-$20?) that provided a microphone output to computer. We recorded it as a "microphone" input on a desktop computer. That way we had landline-->landline (and the older lady whom we we're interviewing didn't need to figure out Skype or anything). 

    There are many oral history project resources out there for a legal release, it somewhat depends on what you're planning with it (preservation compared to research compared to use in multimedia projects etc.) I'd recommend finding one and then tailoring it to your needs a touch. 

    With the phone call itself, it's best to start the call, tell the person you're going to start recording, then begin recording and state all the relevant information at the start of the interview (This oral history is being recorded on X day at Y time with Z person by W staff). It's always best to get the "this is being recorded" on the recording as several states have laws about recording phone calls.

    Drew Whatley
    Museum Educator
    Whatcom Museum
    Bellingham WA

  • 6.  RE: Oral Histories by telephone

    Posted 03-03-2020 08:05 AM
    Edited by Rebecca Klassen 03-04-2020 08:32 AM
    To record interviews over the phone, I use the Olympus TP-8 microphone. It's like an earbud that plugs into the mic jack (not headphone jack -- definitely made that mistake once!) of my digital voice recorder, also by Olympus. I've had a couple of them over the past decade. A phone's ear speaker carries both voices, so that's why you can pick up the full conversation at the ear. I am generally using the landline at work because the connection is stable. 

    For formal interviews like oral histories, I will start with a few minutes of pleasantries, etc., to warm them up before saying that I'm going to turn the recorder on. I announce that it's on with something like, "OK, the microphone is on." It signals to the interviewee that we are in a different conversational space and addresses consent laws.

    Rebecca Klassen
    Associate Curator of Material Culture
    New-York Historical Society
    New York, NY