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Unheard History: Digital Project Proposal

Unheard History

A University of North Carolina Charlotte Oral Interview Handbook

Intended Audience:

Rather than focus specifically on my original intended audience of UNCC history students, this project should extend to all UNCC students who may be interested in learning how to conduct an oral interview. While my original intention for the project was to create an oral history website and accompanying workbook, by changing the idea from oral histories to oral interviews, it allows the project to be used through a wide variety of disciplines. Considering that the audience may span across multiple disciplines at UNCC, I have decided to shift the project to focus on how to conduct oral interviews, rather than specifically oral histories, so that the project engages with students across campus and becomes a resourceful tool for more than one department. Students from disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, criminal justice, public policy, and others may use oral interviews as means for completing a project, and my hope is that this project will serve as a resource for the entire campus, regardless of discipline. The shift in intended audience does not change the core idea of the project, however, it does change the original format and wording I originally planned for this project. Now, considering how students from other disciplines may be utilizing the tool, the “Best Practices and Methods” and “Examples” section will need to be revised to meet this goal.

Description of Research:

Divided into three sections, the research for this project covers three specific topics. First, it will cover the origin and rise of oral history as a subfield of history and growing methodology. To understand the rise of oral history, I will ask questions such as: when did historians begin to collect oral interviews as part of grounded historical research, who were some of the pioneers of the field, and how has oral history become a useful methodology for historians to use? This research will cover an examination of the literature on the field, including monographs and scholarly articles, as well as examining audio examples from early oral history interviews. It will also provide the background information necessary for understanding the significance of oral history in the discipline and how scholars utilize it today.

The second part of my research focuses on learning how other disciplines, such as anthropology or criminology, conduct oral interviews. This section of research will provide a better understanding of interview methods across a range of subjects, rather than a focus on oral history specifically. I intend to research the best practices for journalism, as well as examine interviews conducted by scholars from a range of disciplines in order to gain a more thorough understanding of the examples and types of questions that should be included in the handbook. By expanding the scope of the audience, I plan to shift the format/layout of the project to include sections that designate the types of project (oral history or oral interview) and the best methods/practices depending on what type of project the student might conduct.

The creation of a static website that houses multimedia elements, such as text, videos, photographs, and audio constitutes the third section of my research. Since I am a novice in website design, I anticipate that this section of research will take the most time. Unlike traditional historical research, I foresee this part of the “research” being more trial and error as I learn the aspects of website design and work to build a website. I am hopeful that I can produce a quality base framework for the website (that I can expand on next semester) as I work toward the completion of my thesis project. I intend to use some of the resources we have observed in class, such as the Programming Historian and their lessons (How to Install Omeka and The step-by-step process that the Programming Historians provides has helped me begin my initial research and creation of my project.

Justification of Research:

One of the primary reasons I chose to create this project is because I felt as if I kept having to double back and use other universities, such as UNC Chapel Hill or Baylor University, pre-made handbooks. I realized that while UNCC does not specialize in oral history or have programs dedicated to it, we still have many students who are interested in and want to conduct oral history interviews, but feel as if they don’t know how. The rationale behind choosing to create a UNCC Oral Interview Handbook stemmed from my personal experience with the oral history process. I am not the first graduate student to complete oral histories as part of their final thesis and project and yet I felt as if I had no resources to begin my project, or even point me in the right direction. One of the reasons for making this a digital project, rather than just a hard copy, would be for easier manipulation by the library staff (as changes are made) if they wanted to include this project as part of the UNCC website. I hope to design it through collaboration with library staff, so that it can be used for all UNCC students.

Design Rationale:

The design rationale for my project will include a base website that has a home screen with multiple tabs or sections for the user to explore. The tabs will be labeled in the same format at the hard copy table of contents, which include: Welcome, What is Oral History?, What Are Oral Interviews?, UNCC Oral History, UNCC Oral Interview Resources, How to Get Started, Types of Projects, Best Methods and Practices, How-To Examples, Legal Paperwork, Examples and Templates. On the digital platform, there will also be a video and audio tab, in which the user can click see examples of how to set up an oral interviewing station and how to use the equipment.

Current Models:

Several current models exist for this type of project. For example, I have used a few sections extensively from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Southern Oral History Program, as well as the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, and the Oral History Association website. While UNC Chapel Hill provides a downloadable PDF and Baylor’s primary resources are online, I realized I spent my time switching and shifting between the print PDF and looking online, across two different institutions. The goal for my project (to create a digital oral interview handbook) with a PDF component would allow any UNCC student the ability to learn about oral interviews, whether they wanted to stay completely online or print the PDF to keep with them. I intend for this project to become a hybrid between the two models I have used in my own research, but tailor it to the specific needs of UNCC students. I will also incorporate resources found on the Oral History Association website.


One of the primary challenges I anticipate with this project is the creation of the static website. I worry that learning how to create the website will take longer than I expect and I will not have time to include all of the multi-media that I hope for. At the very least, I want to create the framework for the website, a type of initial structure that I can build off of while I complete my thesis project. I also have very crude skills in graphic design, but would need to learn more or garner help to design the website graphics. In order to complete this project on time, I plan to include what I deem the most fundamental elements to the website: what is oral history/oral interviews, what resources are available at UNCC (how to access the Goldmine, Tina Wright, and a list of books/articles available in the library), a paragraph on how to get started with a project, a link to my bibliography and a short review of my sources, and a breakdown of what the library provides in terms of equipment (recorder, backpack). If I am unable to include anything else on the website, I hope to produce these basic elements on the frame of the static website. I anticipate myself working on this project and including images, how-to videos, examples of my own work and more throughout the spring semester.


Expanded Bibliography

  1. Oral History:
    1. Primary Sources:
      1. Oral History Collection (Atkins Library)
    2. Books:
      1. DeBlasio, Donna Marie. Catching Stories: A Practical Guide to Oral History. Athens: Swallow Press, 2009.
      2. Ritchie, Donald A. Doing Oral History, A Practical Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
      3. Thompson, Paul. Voices of the Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
    3. Chapters:
      1. Charlton, Thomas. “Chapter Three: How to Interview.” In Oral History for Texans by Thomas L. Charlton, 21-38. Austin: Texas Historical Commission, 1985.
    4. Articles:
      1. Proctor, Samuel. “Oral History Comes of Age.” The Oral History Review, Vol. 3 (1975): 1-6.
      2. Swain, Ella D. “Oral History in the Archives: Its Documentary Role in the Twenty-First Century.” The American Archivist, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring – Summer, 2003): 1-21.
    5. Websites:
      1. “Principles for Oral History and Best Practices,” 2000 Oral History Guidelines, Oral History Association, last modified 2018,
      2. “A Practical Guide to Oral History,” Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, last modified 2014,
      3. “The Heart of Oral History: How to Interview,” Baylor Institute for Oral History, accessed September 11th, 2018.
      4. “History of Oral History,” Oral History Society, last accessed September 10th, 2018,
  2. Website design:
    1. Jonathan Reeve. “Installing Omeka.” The Programming Historian. Last modified March 16, 2018.
    2. Miriam Posner and Megan R. Brett. “Creating an Omeka Exhibit.” The Programming Historian. Last modified March 16, 2018.
    3. Miriam Posner. “Up and Running with” The Programming Historian. Last modified March 16, 2018.
    4. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. “Omeka Workshop Tip Sheet: Getting Started, Terms, and other Resources.” PDF worksheet. Last accessed October 8th, 2018.
    5. Franky Abbot. “Building Digital Exhibits Using Omeka.” Mountain West Digital Library Fall Webinar Series. PDF worksheet. Last modified October 2, 2014.
  3. Oral Interviews:
    1. Cultural Anthropology. “Unstructured Interview.” Chapter 4: Methods. Last accessed October 8, 2018.
    2. University of Kentucky. “The Ethnographic Interview.” Last accessed October 8, 2018.  Downloaded PDF worksheet.
    3. Beth L. Leech. “Asking Questions: Techniques for Semistructured Interviews.” Rutgers University. Last accessed October 8, 2018.
    4. Arizona State University. “What is Qualitative Interviewing?” Last accessed October 8, 2018.
  4. Personal thesis:
    1. Books:
      1. Alley, Betty Gene and John Wilson. North Carolina Juvenile Justice System: A History 1868-1993. Raleigh: NC Administrative Office of the Courts, 1994.
      2. Frankel, Noralee and Nancy S. Dye. Gender, Class, Race, and Reform in the Progressive Era. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1991.
      3. Hawfield, S.G. History of the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School. Concord: Boys of the Printing Department, Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School, 1946.
    2. Articles:
      1. Birckhead, Tamar R. “North Carolina, Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, and the Resistance to Reform.” North Carolina Law Review 86, (2008): 1443-1500.
      2. Franklin, V.P. “Introduction: Documenting the NAACP’s First Century – From Combating Racial Injustices to Challenges Racial Inequities.” The Journal of African American History 94, (Fall 2009): 453-463.

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