National Press Club

Senate Historian Gives Tips on Oral History Interviews

November 12, 2009 | By Bill Hickman | hickmanb@comcast.net

Oral histories should be transcribed as quickly as possible and include indexes, an expert on oral histories said during a presentation at the Club Nov. 9.

Senate historian Don Ritchie coached the would-be interviewers to ask open-ended questions whenever possible but to be prepared with more specific follow-up questions, especially to pursue unexpected answers.

Ritchie is the author of "Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide" and six other books, four of which are about Washington journalism.

The Club has collected some 150 oral interviews. Only a handful has been transcribed, making it possible to digitized them so they can be electronically searched. The History Committee intends to add about 20 interviews per year. It is seeking funding for transcribing for new interviews and the backlog.

Recently the Silver Owls contributed $2,400 for transcribing 20 of the old tapes.