The Department of Oral History records the memories and descriptions of daily lives,
communities, families, and notable events that shaped South Carolina and continue
to do so, and to make those stories freely available to a wide audience.
COVID-19 and the Department of Oral History
The Department of Oral History is currently closed in accordance with the closure
of all University of South Carolina campuses for the remainder of the spring 2020
semester. For remote research assistance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital Traditions Home to a wealth of folk traditions, South Carolina is culturally and geographically
diverse. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Sea Islands and from rural crossroads
to urban centers, the state boasts rich sources of traditional culture and folklore
Veterans History Project A selective, annotated compilation of the many existing oral history projects, programs
and collections dedicated to recording and preserving the experiences of veterans
and civilians, Library of Congress
GoodWorkSister Women Shipyard Workers of WWII: An Oral History, Northwest Women's History Project,
Silence as a Tool Use silence as a tool. If the interviewee pauses, don't jump in immediately with another
question. The interviewee may be connecting what they've just said to some other thought
that is related and important.
Role of the Interviewer Remember that your job as the interviewer is to guide the interviewee, not to be a
participant in a conversation. Your voice should be heard sparingly, and the best
way to achieve that is to think carefully about what questions to ask, how to word
the questions to get the fullest response, and in what order to ask the questions
(flow of the interview).
Location, Location, Location Choose a place that is quiet with minimal distractions. DO NOT conduct interviews
in public places, such as restaurants or cafes. Be aware of open windows, slamming
doors, kitchen noises, utensils, squeaky chairs, fans and air conditioners, pet birds,
traffic, open spaces and high ceilings that cause echo sounds, etc.
How to ask Questions It is often how you ask the question that accounts for the richness of the answer.
Below are some ways to ask questions that can be quite helpful, and also some techniques
to avoid. Always try to keep in mind that the person you're interviewing knows more
about their life and connection to the subject than you do, and if you give them sufficient
berth with your questions, they will often provide information on matters you couldn't
The information sought in oral history work is best obtained by supporting interviewees
in the telling of their stories. Oral histories should not be dry recitations of facts,
but engaging remembrances of the interviewee's experiences and insights.
Questions should be framed to encourage, not dampen, the interviewee in his/her recollections.
It is best to cast oneself as the student, eager to learn what the interviewee wishes
to impart, not the investigative reporter, trying to pin down the facts. The latter
approach almost certainly guarantees the equivalent of a lifeless butterfly collection.
The former will reveal more than you anticipated and, often, more than the interviewee
intended or realized was available in his/her memory.
Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.