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Historian gives tips on how to preserve oral histories

March 7, 2011

Whether you work in a school or community organization, your group can develop an oral history project, which is a wonderful way to preserve personal community or family stories, knowledge and history. Read below some tips on how to preserve oral histories from Brown University professor, Ann Valk, Associate director for programs of the John Nicholas Brown Center.

If your uncle or grandmother always tells great stories about when they were growing up, and you’ve always thought that you should be recording or writing down those stories, now is the time to do it. That’s what Brown University professor Anne Valk told attendees at a presentation on oral histories recently at the Carpenter Museum.

Valk, who teaches in Brown’s Public Humanities Program, talked about how to conduct a good oral history interview and offered tips on planning and asking interview questions.

The presentation was sponsored by the Rehoboth Cultural Council, Rehoboth Antiquarian Society and the Antiquarian Society Board of Trustees.

Valk, a historian who has made oral history interviews her life’s work, called it an “incredibly flexible methodology.”

oral history interview is to get information that isn’t available from traditional sources or research, she said.

This information is obtained through first-person stories from the people who lived during that time or event.

“What I usually can’t find out in advance through other sources are stories – memories, descriptions – and that’s the heart of oral history. What do people remember, what are the stories that they have to tell, what’s the significance to them of the things they remember,” Valk said. More…

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