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What happens in an oral history interview?

Updates from Linda

Hear from Linda, one of our two Bath Spa University Placement students, on how the Voices of the Assizes oral history project is going.

I have now completed my first interview for the ‘Voices of the Assize Project’, and I was definitely more nervous than my interviewee! But it all went well, and I am now looking forward to the next one with a lot more confidence.

Oral history recording is an enjoyable experience for all those who take part and an important aspect of local history to save stories and memories for future generations. Some of you may be interested in getting involved in the ‘Voices of the Assize Project’ and wondering ‘what happens in an oral history interview?’ So, I thought it would be useful to give a brief outline of what it involves, then anyone who has a story or memory they want to share will know exactly what to expect.

Before the interview

  • When someone wanting to share their story has been identified we arrange a day, time and venue to undertake the interview.
  • Interviews can take place in the interviewee’s home or at the museum, so long as it is a quite space with no interruptions.
  • We send confirmation of the appointment and an outline of what will happen to the recording after the interview.

On the day

  • Interviewer and interviewee will have an informal chat and possibly a cup of tea/coffee just to ‘break the ice’.
  • The interviewer will take photo of the interviewee – to keep on file.
  • Both interviewer and interview need to turn off their phones and remind themselves not to make any distracting noises, such as a tapping foot or pen, and ensure there are no interruptions!
  • The interviewer will ask some introductory questions, for example
    • ‘When and where were you born?’
    • ‘How long have you lived in Devizes?’ or
    • ‘What jobs have you done?’
  • From there the interview becomes more of a conversation with different questions being asked depending on the interviewees story.
  • At the end of the interview there are 3 forms to sign
    • Recording agreement
    • Participation agreement
    • Permission for WM to use the recording and photo

If an interviewee is concerned about something they said - don’t worry - they can ask for sections to be removed from the recording.  And that’s it - its as simple as that!

The interview recording is kept in the museum archive and transcribed so a there is a hard copy as well.  Some of the recorded content will be used in a variety of ways, for example, on the Assize Court website and some memories will be published in a book later in the year.

If you have a memory you would like to share about the Assize Court, please contact the museum or email assizes.voices@wiltshiremuseum.org.uk