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Oral History Research and Resources

Jennifer Bartlett

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Jennifer Bartlett
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
405A King Library
University of Kentucky Libraries
Lexington, KY 40506-0039

Introduction to Oral History

"Oral history" refers to the collection and study of historical events using audio and video recordings of interviews with people who have personal knowledge and recollections of these events. These interviews are a dialogue between the interviewee (sometimes called the narrator) and a well-prepared interviewer, and are an important part of the historical record as primary sources. Recorded interviews are transcribed, indexed, and preserved in a library or archive for future researchers. Oral histories are used in conjunction with other primary sources, such as archival materials and newspapers, and secondary sources.

Dr. Fernheimer's Interviewing How-To's - READ THIS!

Some Thoughts on Interviewing Techniques

Interviewing another person is an art and improves with practice. The focus should be on the interviewee and they should do most of the talking, with you guiding the conversation.

  1. Begin with a simple, general question such as "Where are you from? or "Please tell me a little bit about yourself."
  2. Ask one question at a time (keep them simple and brief!) and try to stay away from yes-or-no questions. Questions that begin with phrases such as "Tell me about..." or "Can you describe..." can help stimulate the conversation.
  3. Be an active listener, and jot down potential topics for follow-up while the interviewee is speaking.
  4. Keep in mind that this is a conversation, so feel free to pursue interesting digressions if you think they are relevant. Find appropriate ways to bring the interview back to the topic, but don't interrupt the interviewee when they are talking.
  5. Close with a contemplative, open-ended question such as "What would you like to talk about that we haven't already discussed?"

Setting Up and Recording Your Interviews

  1. You will be using one of three methods to record your interview:
    1. Zoom: All University of Kentucky students have free access to the licensed pro version. See below for detailed instructions.
    2. In-Person: Check out an audio recorder from Jennifer Bartlett ( She'll give you instructions on how to use the recorder.
    3. Nunn Center Studio: Contact Kopana Terry ( to schedule a studio appointment. Nunn Center staff will handle setup when you and your interviewee arrive.
  2. If you're using Zoom or an audio recorder, do a test recording before the actual interview begins. Try doing a recording with a friend ahead of time if possible and see how it sounds.
  3. At the beginning of the recording, create an audible header for the interview, i.e., "This is Susan Miller interviewing her grandmother Harriet Miller on October 5, 2022 at 2:00 pm via Zoom for the Global Foodways Oral History Project."
  4. After the interview, send the interviewee a thank you note or email and include the Deed of Gift link as a reminder.

Recording a Zoom Meeting

But Wait, You're Not Done! Submitting and Documenting Your Interviews

Post-interview, be sure you do the following:

  • Submit the Deed of Gift form as the Donor/Interviewer and the Interview Metadata Submission form. The project code for the metadata form is GFOOD. Also make sure that the person you interview submits a Deed of Gift form as well. We cannot process your interview and make it available without these forms! They will go directly to Kopana Terry in the Nunn Center and you will receive a copy as well.
  • If you're using Zoom, upload the video (.mp4) file to the Nunn Center at this Google Folder. If you have an audio recorder, return it to Jennifer Bartlett and she'll upload the interview. The Nunn Center staff will take care of the video files for studio interviews.
What is an Oral History Interview Deed of Gift?  The deed of gift agreement is a crucial part of archiving your interview and making it available to researchers for years to come. This agreement transfers legal title and all literary property rights to the interview to the repository, in this case, University of Kentucky Libraries. Both you as the interviewer and your interviewee need to fill out and submit a separate deed of gift as Donors.
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History Interview Deed of Gift -