Resources – Oral History Victoria

Sarah’s Tips for Oral History Interviews

SARAH ROOD is a professional historian and director at Way Back When Consulting Historians.

  • Be Prepared
    • Do background research into the interviewee
    • Spend time devising appropriate questions
    • Check the recording environment
  • Establish a good recording environment – ask your interviewee about their home/office. Let them know that you require a small quiet space with no interruptions or outside environmental noises. Ask about other people sharing the home/office and dogs, cats.
  • Put your interviewee at ease. This is best done by demonstrating your professionalism. Explain the equipment and processes involved.
  • Interruptions will happen. If and when they do handle them by stopping the recording and starting again when the noise stops.
  • Be economical with your questions – don’t over-explain or rephrase or repeat unless you have to. Remember to ask the question and keep quiet.
  • Keep your opinions and experience out of the interview. Remember at all times that the interview has been set up to record the story of the interviewee. You are not in conversation, you are facilitating the gathering of that story.
  • Don’t be afraid of emotion. Let it resolve itself but be prepared to stop recording if the interviewee wants to stop.
  • Know when to stop the interview. Have a wrap-up line ready and use it when the interview comes to its end.

Ken’s Sound Recording Tips

KEN BERRYMAN was the founding manager of the Melbourne Office for the National Film & Sound Archive.  In 2015, he was presented with the 2014 Australian Sound Recording Association Award for outstanding achievement in the development and interpretation of Australia’s audiovisual heritage.

For both seasoned and prospective oral history interviewers, the recorded sound field is both huge and constantly changing, and the range of information available on the subject can be a little overwhelming.

The following sites/ references may help practitioners refine their searches a little in this regard:
Although it has not been revised recently, the sections dealing with recording and equipment in the Fifth Edition of the Oral History Handbook published by OHAA (SA Branch) – see the link below – remain very useful introductory references for oral historians looking to purchase or borrow recording gear for their interviews.

The field recording section of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) ‘Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects’ is informative and not too technical. This is also a few years old now but the information should still be current. It’s not specifically oral history focused but has useful pointers on recording equipment and recommended file types, etc. The web version is found at

For those still looking to explore or better understand digital recording options, the US-based Oral History in the Digital Age (OHDA) Project documentation is relevant too and quite up to date. Go to for further details.

Oral history interviewing, Listening

Useful Publications

Oral-History-Handbook-204x300The Oral History Handbook by Beth M Robertson
Fifth Edition, 2006
ISBN 0646454447
Published by:
Oral History Association of Australia (SA Branch)

The author draws on 25 years experience of practising and teaching oral history techniques and preserving sound recordings.

Go to for further details on content and purchase.

The Oral History Reader, 3rd edition
Edited by Rob Perks and Alistair Thomson

The Oral History Reader is a comprehensive, international anthology combining major, ‘classic’ articles with cutting-edge pieces on the theory, method and use of oral history. New chapters introduce the most significant developments in oral history in the last decade to bring this invaluable text up to date.

Details at

Valerie Yow book coverJPGRecording Oral History by Valerie Yow (3rd edition)
“This is the premier practical guide for conducting, using, and making available to others oral history interviews. … [It] belongs in every academic library, any library that supports humanities and social science research, and public libraries that serve constituents pursuing online degrees.”
B. M. Banta, Arkansas State University, CHOICE, July 7, 2015

Further information at