Skip to Main Content

Course & Subject Guides

Oral History Toolkit: A How-To and Resource Guide

This guide serves as a toolkit for students, staff and faculty who intend to create an oral history project or are curious about how to use oral histories as primary resources.

Oral History in the Time of Covid- 19

When it comes to oral history in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to be considerate of issues surrounding personal privacy as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as HIPAA. People are able to disclose their own health information as much as they feel comfortable or feel is appropriate. Others, including medical professionals, are not permitted to disclose health information of patients for whom they care in any identifiable way without the permission of the patient. When interviewing a medical professional who gets too specific in their interview, the oral history editor may be required to redact personally identifiable information in the transcript should any be disclosed and to close the original recording for an extended period of time. Oral history is a powerful tool that can be used to gather information and share experiences of events that are happening now. Many groups and organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh, have gathered documentation and first-hand accounts. While information may be readily available from a variety of news sources, blog posts, and media outlets; personal experiences are often lost. By capturing these stories now, we stand a better chance of creating a more full picture of life during this time. 

Below are those groups and organizations who are involved in preserving what life was like during the most recent pandemic.

The Oral History Society in the UK has also developed excellent questions and guidelines for consideration when conducting oral histories during the time of Covid-19. Additionally, they have a helpful YouTube video series which addresses conducting remote interviews via various software including Zoom and Zencastr as well as using phones and handheld devices. 

Oral History At A Distance

We don't always have the ability to be in the same location as our interviewee. Interviews can be conducted remotely using a variety of tools including Zoom, Zencastr, Skype, and similar software. Whatever remote software is used, be sure that the session is secure. For instance, a Zoom session may require a password and for the host to personally admit attendees to the meeting.

The Oral History Association has a Remote Interview Resources guide that will help interviewers and oral historians develop their remote interview strategy. 

UC Berkeley has a one hour webinar conducted by Paul Burnett available that walks interviewers and oral historians through the process of conducting an interview via Zoom.