Picture this: You have just scheduled your first oral history interview. You will now get the chance to hear about a historical topic first-hand. Let’s say you have a basic understanding of best practices and oral history theory. Now all you need is your recording equipment.
So what equipment do you need?
- Video Recorder. It is absolutely essential that you capture your interview on video, unless the interviewee specifically requests audio-only. As a society, we tend to say a lot through our hand motions and body movements. Don’t leave researchers of the future – and yourself – without these valuable kinesthetic cues!
- [Worried about choosing the right camera? The Institute of Museum and Library Services has an article for you!]
- Power Cord. Your battery may say “full,” but plugging in to a power outlet is always the safest bet. If this is impossible, make sure the camera is fully charged beforehand.
- USB Cord. Or some way to get the recording from your camera’s internal memory or SD card onto your computer.
- Audio Recorder. Why would you need one if you already have a video recorder? One word: Backup. Video recorders might fail, and you will want to have another option. If you do not have an official audio recorder, consider a phone, tablet, or laptop.
- Extra Batteries. Just in case!
- Lapel Mic. You will connect this to the audio recorder, to make sure your sound quality is clear.
- External Mic. This is for the camera. These are particularly useful if you are in an area that is noisy and you want to focus in on the interviewee.
- Tripod. Trying to get a perfect waist-up shot can be difficult if you are trying to balance a video camera on a table or chair. Holding the camera the entire time is also not the smartest idea – it can be tough to ask questions while focusing on not moving too much. After an hour, your hand might get seriously tired!
- Headphones. A good pair of headphones can help a team members keep tabs on how things are sounding. Not recommended if you are interviewing by yourself – it is more important for you to pay attention to the interview.
- SD Cards. The internal memory on a camera is good enough for anywhere from 60 to 800 minutes, but SD cards can provide a great backup, and give you the option of doing more interviews without unloading the camera.[If you are a University of Central Florida student, click here to email the Office of the Regional Initiative for Collecting the Histories, Experiences, and Stories of Central Florida, which regularly checks out oral history equipment]
- Have you conducted oral histories? Would you suggest any additions to this list? Leave a comment and let us know! Feel free to leave your questions on oral history equipment as well.
- But where is a broke college student to find this equipment? Talk to representatives from your school’s library, tech center, computer store, or history department. There might be some equipment available for you to borrow or rent.
[BD1]Link to Dos and Donts of Oral History