Challenging Expectations and Other Lessons from Doing Human-Based Research

It has been a whirlwind past could of weeks. After my trip to Washington, D.C. to conduct two interviews, I went to a conference for one of my organizations on campus, which gave me plenty of travel time to work on transcripts. I am also preparing to go up to D.C. again tomorrow (Tuesday) to conduct another interview.

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Researching and Replying: Preparing to Conduct Oral Histories

Before I return to Williamsburg to begin conducting oral histories, I am doing secondary source research and contacting a lot of different people in order to be fully prepared to jump in when I return to William & Mary in July.

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Advantages of the Oral History Association’s Publications

My biggest find was stumbling upon the published transcripts of the early Oral History Association meetings. The first two were published books, all other publications after that were periodicals distributed by the OHA, with the seventh year’s periodical no longer being a transcript, but a series of essays, book reviews, and a bibliography.

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The Beginning of Oral History in the 1930’s

Other than the achievements of Allan Nevins, there are two major components of oral history in the 1930’s and 40’s. The first I knew I needed to research was the work of Forrest Pogue. Pogue had been repeatedly mentioned by later authors on the topic as an individual who had greatly influenced the public’s interest in oral history with his work “Pogue’s War”. “Pogue’s War” narrated Forrest Pogue’s time as an oral historian with the US army during D-Day and beyond on the European front during WWII. I was able to use this book to discover the other historians in Forrest Pogue’s unit. By researching these individuals, I discovered that many of them wrote and published narratives on their work during WWII.

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Researching Allan Nevins

In order to understand the meteoric rise of oral history material in the 1960’s and 70’s, I needed to first find the point where oral history began. Columbia University has long been the standard for all matters oral history from archive development to interview standards, and Allan Nevins, a former Professor there, was often cited as the founder of Oral history in my preliminary readings. I decided to start by reading the introductions he’d written in his published work, especially in his biography of Henry Ford in which he’d heavily used interviews of individuals who’d known Henry Ford to inform and fill out his narrative. This book had often been mentioned when searching articles and reviews of Allan Nevin’s work as the beginning of Allan Nevins use of oral history.

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