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Oral History Project Guide: Technical Considerations

This guide describes how to plan and implement an oral history project.

Recording the Interview

Before choosing what equipment or format to record an interview, it is best to consider where the final product will be stored and how it will be accessed.  

Some questions to consider when selecting a recording device include:

  • What format will the device use for storage?  Is it a common format or proprietary?
  • Is the resulting file high quality?  If so, how much storage space will you need for a one hour or two hour interview?
  • Will you be able to plug the device to an outlet during the interview?  If not, are there long-lasting batteries available so you don't have to stop to change batteries in the middle of the interview?
  • How portable is the device?
  • Is the device easy to set up?  Will it require two or more people?

Storage Considerations

Some questions to consider when choosing storage are:

  • Will the records be stored in a local or private server, or on a cloud-based system?  
  • What type of recovery options are in place should the server or service fail or the files become corrupt?  Who is responsible to making backups of the files and ensuring file integrity?
  • What file formats are supported by the server or service to be used?  Are they common formats (mpeg, avi, mp3, au) or proprietary?
  • Will you be able to download a copy of the files, if you need them?
  • When new formats replace the one you used originally, who will be responsible for migrating the old files to the new format?
  • If the interview participants provide paper copies of documents, will these be retained in paper format or digitized and returned?