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Oral History

Archiving Oral History


Chances are your local library, archives, museum, or heritage center will have an oral history collection.  It might be on reel-to-reel or videocassette. It might be in a box in a closet. Or it might be fully digitized and available online with detailed metadata and interactive searching capabilities.

Archiving oral history for preservation and access is a pillar to best practice.  Planning for the long term care of interview materials should begin at the outset of the project creation.  How well of a resource an oral history project will become is greatly dependent upon how well you prepare your content for a post-project life.

When looking for a repository to archive the oral history collection, be mindful of the repository's ability of digital preservation, access, and over collection development and management policies.

Tips for Archiving

File Naming - When transferring and saving your recordings from your recording media to secure hard drives or cloud storage, be sure to create consistent file and folder names.  This way they can not only be easily retrieval by you and the project team, but eventually the archival repository that will oversee stewardship of the collection.  

i.e.: LastName-FirstName-YYYYMMDD

Make Copies -  Once you have transferred your recordings and named the files, it is important to make working and access copies.  Store the original in a safe place until transfer to the archives.

Supplemental Material - Use the same naming convention for supplemental material related to the interview.

i.e.: LastName-FirstName-YYYYMMDD-transcript

Creating Metadata and File Manifests - Create a spreadsheet that tracks the progress and completeness of the project. This provides a check to ensure all forms are completed and information about the interviews have been compiled.

Forms - Projects should have two forms.  1) a consent form outlining the project and the interview process, including where interviews will reside.  2) a Deed-of-gift form from the repository where the collection will reside.


Archiving Oral History with Special Collections and Archives

Trinity University Special Collections and Archives will consider taking oral history collections if the following criteria is met.

  • Project representative has met with SCA and together they have determined the repository is a suitable home for the collection.

  • Project has used an oral history deed-of-gift form from SCA.  All interview participants will need to sign this form in order for the interview to be archived.

  • Project has recorded interviews in standard accepted formats.  For audio - interviews should be recorded in WAV format and have MP3 copies created.  For video - interviews should be recorded in MPEG-2 container format and have MP4 copies created.

  • Project has employed an inventory tracking system such as a spreadsheet, which helps to compile information about interviews and one place. SCA can provide guidance on creating this.

  • Project submits a complete collection package, which includes recordings and their derivatives, forms, inventory, and supplemental information such as indexes and transcripts.


Learn More About Archiving Oral History

Oral History Association Archiving Oral History Manual


Oral History Metadata Tool