Importance of Preserving Oral History by Transcribing Interviews

by | Published on Sep 15, 2015 | Interview Transcription

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Interview TranscriptionInterview transcription has a major significance in understanding history. It is the only way oral history, or historical incidents related in a personal manner by people, can be documented and preserved.

Interview Transcription Keeps Oral History Alive

Oral history is considered to be the primary source of information, with written and printed sources coming next. It has always been that way, and history is often about recorded verbal information being passed on through the generations. But in the digital age, preserving that history involves transcribing these oral records. That’s where audio transcription and interview transcription come in.

Transcription of the oral data helps preserve history for posterity. It is basically an archival practice and helps create documents of the oral history so that scholars and researchers can use it and the public can get to know about historic incidents that would otherwise remain unknown.

Gleaning History from Interviews

For transcribing oral history, interview transcription is arguably the most vital aspect. The person who still remembers the past events talks about them and this is recorded and transcribed. An archival transcript needs to be precise and is therefore done by experts. It serves to emphasize the information divulged in the interview and also any new, hitherto unknown information that may have been conveyed. There are many processes involved in creating a quality transcript of the interview:

  • It begins with a print rendering of the words as well as the non-verbal utterances without much editorial intervention.
  • The interviewer then reviews the document to check for accuracy. Corrections are made as required.
  • Then the document is reviewed by the narrator. Accuracy is checked, and corrections including amplification, emendation and redaction of some materials are carried out. Revisions are made based on the narrator’s inputs.
  • Annotation and editing are done to suit sense and context. Indexing and cataloguing are also executed.

A Vivid Example – The People’s Nappanee Project

The oral history of the people of Nappanee, Indiana is being documented through a temporary exhibit as part of the People’s Nappanee project. Visiting the temporary exhibit allows people to watch and hear the interviews and observe the artifacts mentioned in, or connected to, them. They can also read the transcription. The audio vault contains 56 interviews, three of which are stored digitally and the rest in cassettes and DVDs. All this is the result of a massive effort initiated in the 1970s.

This is a clear example of how interview transcription is helping bring past generations back to life.

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