Doing Folklife Research
Want to know more about interviewing? Donating material to the Maine Folklife Center? Wonderful! This page has the information you will need to do that successfully. We also recommend you look at the Oral History Association website, especially their pages on “Web Guides to Doing Oral History” and “Oral History in the Digital Age.”
For starters, here is a quick guide to the best practices for interviewing/documentation. Following best practices is important if you are doing interviewing or research for your own use or plan on depositing your work at the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History. We do accept work in other formats, but prefer what is listed below.
Audio: Record audio in .wav format. .wav files contain the most information and are of higher quality than .mp3 files.
Visual: Take pictures using .tiff format. Unlike .jpegs, .tiff files do not deteriorate when copied.
Text: Save your notes or transcripts in .rtf (Rich Text Format) or .odt (OpenDocument Text). .rtf and .odt are easily converted into .docx or .pdf and .odt has the bonus of being open source (non-proprietary).
For more detail, check out Acceptable Media Formats— though the preferred extension types are above (adapted from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress).
Tips for good interviews
1. Get the best recording equipment you can
2. Know your recording equipment
3. Ask open ended questions
4. Ask follow-up questions
5. Don’t interrupt
6. Listen-don’t talk too much
7. Get them to explain insider information
8. Do an introduction at the beginning of the recording where you state your name, the date, the location, and the name of the interviewee.
Biographical Data Form (adapted from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress)
Audio & Video Recording Log (adapted from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress)
Restricted Interview Release Form (sometimes necessary, but not ideal)
Photo Release Form (if photos are separate from an interview)