Truth be told, I started doing oral history back in the ’90s. I was a community activist long before I was an academically-trained historian, and I got started in the whole history thing by getting involved with a community history project focused on capturing the history of lesbian feminism in central Texas. It was a delightful way to fall in love with history, and it’s also what got me started in oral history. Once I finally got myself to graduate school, I continued on with oral history, conducting interviews on the establishment of the local domestic violence shelter and working with the Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory.
But, admittedly, it had been awhile. So this summer I decided to brush up on my skills by participating in a Baylor University Institute for Oral History training on oral history basics. And let me tell you, I really enjoyed myself. The fine folks at Baylor (including Stephen Sloan, current president of the Oral History Association) walked us through the process of project planning, logistics, ethics, and interviewing, then gave us a few months to go out in the world and put our training into practice, creating a project plan and conducting an interview. For me, this also involved a crash course on archival quality recording equipment and a laborious journey to get approved by a university Institutional Review Board (IRB)… not the most enjoyable part of the process, but necessary.
I am delighted to declare that I am now officially ready to go. My certificate of completion arrived from Baylor a few days ago; I have worked out the technological kinks; and I have taken IRB training on working with human subjects. And a good thing, too, as I expect to start conducting oral history interviews of some local entrepreneurs next month!