Oral History Interviews

What is Oral History and why does the Backbone Ridge History Group want to collect it?


The key to learning about the past is to talk to people in the community that have stories, memories, traditions, and pieces of the past – photographs, quilts, diaries, journals, farm and household items, etc. It is these things that provide that connection to the past and help us understand and learn about the generations of people that lived and worked along the Backbone Ridge. The Backbone Ridge History Group, in its quest for collecting historical information, determined that conducting oral history interviews is a very important activity and it supports the Group’s mission.  Interviews began in 2010 and continue as we reach out to members of the community to collect stories that help us learn more about the past.  


What can you expect in an interview?


In preparation for the interview, standard questions from the Smithsonian’s Oral History Guide are prepared to guide the conversation; however, these questions generally just get the process started. Many times after a conversation is started, memories begin to surface and the interview takes on a life of its own, trailing down memory lane.  The questions then become a way to draw out some details.  Often times at this stage, old photographs are brought out and shared. The old adage- a picture is worth a thousand words really holds true, and often arrangements are made to come back and scan photos.


What happens after the interview?


            Following the interview which is recorded, a draft transcript is made and returned for editing. The final written transcript is approved by the person who was interviewed for use by the Backbone Ridge History Group and a printed copy is presented to them for their use. The Group will maintain the transcript in our repository to be made available to researchers and historians for years to come.  The Group will also include these transcripts on our internet website, so that information about the Ridge can be shared with others who are not in commuting vicinity of The Backbone Ridge History Group Research Center.

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