The interview is at the core of Oral History, but what comes before and after are important steps in the research process and are often passed over quickly. By preparing the scene of the interview and making sure that we have gone through all of the steps to preserve and document the interview, we make the recording sustainable and accessible as an historical source for research.   

How do we prepare for an interview? What do we need to do before and after? How do we turn the recording into an historical source? 


  • Understand the steps of the interview process 
  • Understand necessary steps involved in preserving and documenting the recorded Oral History interview and transforming it into a useful and useable historical source

Time and Materials

90 mins 

  • Flip chart papers
  • Markers (different colors)


Warm-up (10 minutes):

We start the session by brainstorming with participants: 

  • How would you prepare for an actual interview? 
  • What might you need to do before or after?
  • What might you need to do with the recordings to ensure they can be preserved and used by others?


Group Work (40 minutes):

We divide the participants into 2 groups and give Handout 33: ‘Day of’ Checklist to one group and Handout 34: Creating an Historical Source. Each participant reads their handout, discusses it in their group and plans a fun, creative and catchy way of presenting the information to the other group.


Group Presentations (40 minutes):

Each group takes between 8-10 minutes to present the information they worked on. During the presentation, each group distributes a copy of its handout to the other group.

At the end, we address any questions the participants may have and/or focus on points that need more emphasis or explanation.

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • The information transmitted in this session is dry, but very important for the Oral History process, as it ensures the participants are prepared for the interview, and that they collect the meta-data needed for preservation and archiving. In order for the important information not to be lost, we want to encourage the participants to come up with creative presentations. The groups could think about simulating or acting out the material, e.g. a series of audio labels, or find a rhyme or a jingle to remember different steps or elements. They could create a flowchart or a bell curve or a diagram to visualize the steps needed.
  • In case you find that you are short on time, these materials can be distributed to participants as a necessary reading, and any questions can be addressed at any time convenient to you and the participants.

Sources and Further Reading

“Archiving Oral History: Manual of Best Practices.” Adopted October 2019. Oral History Association (OHA), 2022 

“Introduction to Oral History.” The Institute for Oral History, 2016, Baylor University.

“Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe.” LOCKSS Program, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford University.