the millennia, it has been the tradition of many cultures that the elderly
of a family group tell to their young the story of their ancestors, so
that they could pass these words on to their children, giving their
children and future generations a sense of
continuity and instilling in them a feeling of familial pride.
In modern times, this custom is followed less often, and
the wonderful stories
of our own family's life experiences are often lost forever. When we finally
interested in such stories and wish to ask our family questions about their past, it is
too late. Nowadays when our elders do tell their stories, they
are often anecdotal, and perhaps they are sitting down with their children and grandchildren, looking at old
photo albums, telling a story or two once they see a photo that reminds
them of a past event. In this way at least, the oral tradition is somehow
passed on to other generations.
Many people decide to become
more proactive and take it one step further. With microphone and tape
recorder in hand, they sit down with their parents or grandparents and ask
them questions about their lives. They are recording their answers for
posterity, insuring that future generations will have the opportunity to
hear the voices of their ancestors. Hopefully, those who hear these voices
and connect with the speakers will be able to derive strength by learning of their experiences, and
will gain a greater
understanding of the world and times they lived in.
The 'How To' will be discussed in the near future, i.e. how do we
interview our relatives in a way that gives us the greatest chance of
success, of eliciting the best stories that we can from the interviewee.
Sample questions will be put forth that can at minimum provide you with a
foundation of material from which you can begin your work. Resources and
links will be provided that relate to oral history so that you will be
able to take advantage of and gain insight from others who have spent more
years than me interviewing people professionally. All of the information
to come will give you the tools necessary to form and frame your own
interview, so that you can tailor it to your particular strengths and
Look for more within the Museum's Oral History Department in the future.