The Chapel Hill Historical Society held a workshop on Sunday afternoon centered on how to effectively plan for and use oral histories to improve historical records.
Anna Hamilton, doctoral student and Southern Oral History Program field scholar, led the workshop that focused on making oral histories an accessible tool for anyone — not just historians.
The Southern Oral History Program collects oral histories through recorded interviews that are able to capture first person experiences. This creates new primary sources that can add depth and context to existing historical records.
“We work to preserve the voices of the southern past,” Hamilton said.
The program is housed at UNC's Center for the Study of the American South.
At the workshop, Hamilton described the process for collecting usable oral histories. An interviewer must think about everything — from budget and materials to questions and project objectives — before beginning their interviews.
It is important for those collecting oral histories to listen and ask for elaboration, Hamilton said. This creates a richer interview with more details from the narrator’s memory.
“Through these interviews, we can capture the vivid personalities, the poignant personal stories and the behind-the-scenes decision making that helps bring history to life,” Hamilton said.
The Southern Oral History Program’s records are available for reading and listening through Wilson Library.