Once you have confirmed your interviewees, you will need to do some initial preparation before the interview.
Do some background research - about a profession, industry, organisation or other community, so that you know which questions you would like answers to and the topics you want the interview to cover (your own collections may come in useful here).
The group member conducting the interview should engage with the interviewee in all aspects of the interview process. Try to contact the participant via telephone rather than email or letter, to help build a personal relationship.
Set out the scope of your oral history project in a document that can be shared, including the topics you are interested in talking about, and an idea of how you will structure the interview. This will allow the participant to prepare by finding diaries, photographs and other memory aids.
It’s also useful to check if the interviewee has any specific insights due to their life and career. This will allow you to identify appropriate subject areas to research and focus on in the interview. For example, if you are doing a project on Norwich’s shoe industry, someone who worked as a leather cutter will have different insights to an owner of a shoe factory.
Suggest an interview location that will be comfortable for the interviewee - many choose to be interviewed in their own home.
These should be confirmed in writing and include:
It’s important that interviewees have trust in you and your process for keeping and managing their recorded interview.
Interviewees must make their own decisions about how they want their recordings to be used, shared and accessed. It is important to explain and acknowledge this.
As an interviewer you have a duty to:
A comprehensive guide to ethics in oral history is available on the Oral History Society website.
Contact the Oral History Society if you have any enquiries regarding personal data.
There may be occasions when you wish to interview a minor, or a ‘vulnerable adult’ (eg someone who has a learning difficulty or who lives with some degree of physical or cognitive impairment). In this case, make sure you have a safeguarding policy in place to protect their health, safety and rights, before you interview them.
You may need the assistance of a ‘gatekeeper’. This could be an interviewee’s relative, friend or carer. A gatekeeper can help the interviewee to understand the interview process and their rights in a way that will be more accessible to them.
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