The topic of discussion on Midmorning on Minnesota Public Radio this morning was once again about doing oral histories. We are often asked at MCHS to conduct an oral history project, but with our small staff and large amount of other tasks, we don’t have time to squeeze one in. Instead, we interview people as we can about local history topics we are covering. The latest interview was with Tom and Francie Peterson of the Falls Ballroom. Transcription of the 45-minute tape took several days and resulted in 41 typed pages.
The discussion on MPR focused on a nationwide oral history project called StoryCorps. StoryCorps has booths that it sets up in cities around the United States for people to use in telling their stories. To date, the project has gathered over 15,000 interviews. As you can see, gathering oral histories is a mission unto itself.
Regardless of whether you take part in a community-wide oral history project, or StoryCorps, the thing to remember about oral histories is that you can do one any time and you don’t need sophisticated equipment. In fact, when the oral history work is spread out among the population, there’s a greater chance that more people will be interviewed than when a formal project is mounted. (It’s the whole ‘many hands make light work’ philosophy.) If you have any oral history tapes (either new or old) hanging around, consider making a copies and donating them to your local historical society.