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Oral History Room
The Riverton FamilySearch Library has recently added an Oral History Room to its facility. The space is designed with state-of-the-art audio and video technology. The comfortable furnishings and sound proofed interior provide a quiet secluded area ideal for recording personal histories.
All our digital audio and video equipment is designed with the most recently released technology and has been programed to make recording oral histories and interviews easy. Touch screen menus make setup and recording simple.
There are three options for recording histories:
- One person can record themselves reading or verbalizing their memories or histories.
- Two people can record a conversation or share memories with each other.
- One person can interview another while recording their responses.
- No more than two patrons may use the room at one time.
- No one under 8 years old will be allowed.
- Anyone 8-17 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
- No food or drink, except bottled water, is allowed.
The Oral History Room will be available for one hour and fifteen minute sessions. Each session will include one hour to record a video interview, fifteen minutes to render the video recording and save it to a flash drive, and fifteen minutes to prepare the room and equipment for the next session.
The Oral History Room is available on the following days and times when the library is normally open:
Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays:
9:00 and 10:30 a.m. and 12:00, 1:30, and 3:00 p.m.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays:
9:00 and 10:30 a.m. and 12:00, 1:30, 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, and 7:30 p.m.
Reservations should be made online at least one week in advance. If the time you request is available you will be notified by a phone or email confirmation. If the time is not available you will receive a phone call to help you select a time that is available. Click on and complete the following online registration form:
Flash Drive Charges
Our equipment is able to save oral history interview videos to flash drive media. One hour of interview time can take as much as 4GB of video storage space. In order to protect our computer equipment from viruses and to provide sufficient storage space to save recorded interviews, patrons must purchase a new 8GB flash drive for each session at the library. The cost of these flash drives is $8.00 each. These charges can only be paid with cash or check. No credit or debit cards. There are no other costs associated with the use of the Oral History Room.
Family history interviews are a good way to capture memories before they are lost. They help you verify and preserve names and dates—the sort of information you would typically record on a family group sheet or pedigree chart. These interviews are also one of the best ways to preserve a wealth of stories, testimonies, thoughts, and feelings.
The following are suggestions from the FamilySearch Wiki one might consider in preparing to conduct an oral interview:
A. Before the Interview
Make a List of Questions to Ask. The type of questions you ask at the beginning of the interview will establish a pattern for your entire interview, so you should plan carefully. The first question or two can be simple to set the interviewee at ease. But other early questions should get the interviewee talking. Once the person is talking, you should interrupt as little as possible. The flow of speech will often generate a series of memories that will build on each other. There are generally three kinds of questions you can ask.
- Open-Ended Questions. Usually the most successful interview comes when the interviewee discusses whatever is most important to him or her. You can lead an interviewee to discuss interests by asking open-ended questions, such as “What are your fondest memories of your mother?” or “How did you meet your husband?” or “What was your greatest challenge as a child?” These questions require more than one or two words to answer and will encourage the interviewee to talk. See Appendix A for a list of sample open-ended questions.
- Direct Questions. A direct question evokes a short response, usually one or two words. Direct questions are appropriate if you seek specific information. For example, you might ask, “What year was Albert Smith born?” or “Who was his father?” This type of question can help you get good information, but it won’t generate the kinds of thoughts and memories that can come from an interview. They might be good introductory or concluding questions and they might help provide important contextual information, but a successful interview is usually built on open ended questions.
- Object-Based Questions. Photos, objects, and heirlooms can serve as an interesting basis for interview questions. For example, during your interview you might show a photo and ask what your interviewee knows about the people in the photo.
Even though the best interview arises from open-ended questions, you can make a list of direct questions you hope to have answered during the interview. Your interviewee may answer them without prompting during the course of the interview. If not, the last few minutes of an interview are a good time to ask a limited amount of direct questions.
Be sensitive about the questions you ask. If you know a certain subject will be upsetting to the interviewee, avoid that subject or approach it carefully. Broach the subject only after you have developed sufficient rapport.
Make a Checklist. Make a checklist of things to take to the interview, which may include:
- Your list of questions.
- Photographs or artifacts that might be useful.
- A pedigree chart or family group record.
B. During the Interview
During the interview be relaxed and alert. It is best not to spend too much time taking notes. Jot down what you need to remember, but for the most part you should look at the interviewee and listen carefully to what is said. The following recommendations will help you in your interview.
- Be on Time. You will have a more successful interview if you minimize inconvenience to the person you interview
- Record the Details of Your Interview. Start your recording with your own voice. Explain who you are, who you are interviewing, what the date is, and where the interview is being conducted.
- Start Asking Your Questions. During the interview itself, your job is to help your subject feel comfortable and willing to talk. Once comfortable, most people do not have any problem talking about their life experiences. As you progress with your interview, keep in mind the following points:
- Make a note of anything that may need clarification. Instead of interrupting while your interviewee is talking, make a quick note of things you do not understand and ask for clarification later in the interview.
- Stay alert for signs of fatigue. If the person you are interviewing shows signs of fatigue and is not refreshed by a bathroom break or a drink of water, you may need to finish your interview at a different time
- Don’t be concerned about getting through your list of questions. It is more important that people you interview be allowed to talk about whatever is significant to them. They know more about their life experience than you do and often are better judges of the value of their personal knowledge. Most of all, you want the interview to be a satisfying experience for the person you interview.
- Ask final questions. About 10 or 20 minutes before your scheduled time is over, you can direct questions you might have. Also ask about anything you feel needs clarification and how to spell the names of people and places mentioned in the interview.
- Finish up. Immediately label your audio or video tape. Your label should include the same information you provided at the beginning of your interview—your name, the name of the person you interviewed, and the date and place of the interview.
C. After the Interview
- Make Copies of the Interview. Make copies of your interview, and store them in different locations to help preserve them in case of fire or other type of disaster. You will also need to make copies to share with others.
- Share Your Interview. If you offered any copies to your interviewee, make sure you share the copies promptly. When recording an interview, regardless of the format being used, it is important to respect the person’s personal rights of privacy. Most people will not mind you sharing the content of their interview. However, it is always good to make sure that you have the interviewee’s permission to share their comments with others.
Appendix A - Open-Ended Questions
This is only a preliminary list of questions you can ask in an interview. The kinds of questions will vary depending on your circumstances and the person you interview. Modify the questions or add to them according to your needs.
• What is your earliest memory?
• What were some of your family’s traditions?
• What was the happiest day of your life?
• Tell a story your mother or father told you when you were young.
• What places have you visited?
• What family heirlooms do you have?
• What childhood games did you play?
• Tell about a childhood hiding place.
• What were Sundays like when you were growing up?
• Describe your feelings or testimony of Jesus Christ. How did you gain that knowledge?
• What prayers have you had answered?
• Describe the most serious illness or accident that you have had.
• Do you remember any of your grandparents? Any great-grandparents? What were their names? What were they like?
• What were your siblings like?
• What trips or vacations do you remember?
• What special events took place in your neighborhood while you were growing up?
• What was your hometown like?
• What were politics like there?
• How many people were in your family? Describe each family member.
• What kinds of household chores did you do as a child? Which did you enjoy? Not enjoy?
• What aunts, uncles, or cousins do you remember? What were they like?
• Tell about family traditions for holidays and birthdays.
• Did you belong to any clubs or social groups? What were they like?
• What were your favorite childhood activities?
• Did you serve in the military? If so, where and when? What was it like?
• What special school memories do you have? Who were your favorite teachers?
• What challenges did you face as a child?
• What challenges have you faced as an adult?
• How did you first meet your spouse?
• How did your father spend his time?
• How did your mother spend her time?
• Tell about ancestors you know about—names and dates and any stories about them.
• What are the names of your children? What are their birth dates, where were they born, and what were the circumstances of their births, and their lives?
• Tell about some of the most notable people in your hometown.
• Tell about some of your neighbors as a child, as a youth, and as an adult.
• What changes have you seen in your lifetime in technology, society, politics, and so on?
• Tell about the house in which you live. Where else have you lived?
• Tell about the house you lived in during your childhood. Do you remember addresses or phone numbers?
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