Remote Interviewing Resources
Published August 27, 2020
- How to Use this Guide
- Decision Tree
- A Note on Essential Interviewing and COVID-19 Projects
- Considerations for Remote Interviewing
- Recording Platforms
- Case Studies
The following resources are a product of the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement to cease face-to-face interviewing for the health of both narrator and interviewer. By March 2020, many of us found ourselves sheltering in place, trying to learn how to do our jobs from home. For those working in oral history, remote interviewing became a pathway to continue essential oral history work. This guide is meant to be a resource to practitioners as they work through the numerous questions that arise with this method.
Though the current environment requires us to set aside face-to-face interviewing, these resources are intended to inform our practice beyond the international crisis created by COVID-19. There are many reasons for in-person interviewing to be our default, but those who developed this guide feel that remote interviewing should have a place in our practice even when it is safe to resume meeting face to face.
The Oral History Association’s Remote Interviewing Resources Task Force developed the decision tree, accompanying narrative, and platform documents. Members included Jen Cramer, Natalie Fousekis, Andy Kolovos, Rachel Mears, Sarah Milligan, Steven Sielaff, and Amy Starecheski, with chair Allison Tracy-Taylor. We relied on colleagues and in some instances our own programs to supply case studies, and we thank everyone who contributed for their time and expertise.
How to Use this Guide
The decision tree was developed for ease of use in selecting an appropriate interviewing platform, and the accompanying narrative is meant to complement and when needed more fully explore questions or issues addressed in the decision tree. Much of the narrative is taken from pop-outs integrated into the tree to help provide users more context on different topics. Generally, users should work through the questions on the tree in order to determine the best platform to use. The narrator of course is central to this selection process. Practitioners are encouraged to begin a conversation with the narrator about potential remote platforms early, check-in frequently, work with the narrator to ensure the platform is working (in a technical sense but also in terms of comfort and ease of use), and consider shifting platforms if issues arise.
We have also collected case studies of projects relying on remote interviewing. We know many have questions beyond what platform to use, and might be interested in both general and specific decisions made by colleagues on how to utilize a particular platform. We hope these case studies give users access to this kind of information. Neither the decision tree nor the case studies are intended to cover all available platforms; we have tried to include information on platforms that are currently seeing the most use in the profession. We will add more case studies and information on additional platforms over time. Further, as technology around remote interviewing develops and evolves, we will do our best to keep this guide up to date.
This decision tree is meant to be a visual representation of the many considerations undertaken in determining the best path for connecting and recording in remote oral history interviewing.
A Note on Essential Interviewing and COVID-19 Projects
When considering whether an interview is essential, the practitioner must ask themselves why do an interview at this time, and how can this interview be conducted meaningfully and ethically. Health, distance, project deadlines, and interview topics are just a few of the many reasons someone may decide conducting an interview remotely is the best option. However, it is important to be mindful of the fraught, precarious position narrators may be, or that we might find ourselves in. The possibility that postponing interview efforts is the best course of action (even if those eventual interviews will be done remotely) should be explored for any project. Section 2.3 in the Oral History Society’s Advice on remote oral history interviewing during the COVID-19 pandemic offers a discussion on the considerations around the emotional and psychological state of both interviewer and narrator.
Further, many organizations have embarked on COVID-19 related projects, and these projects will assuredly capture important information about the pandemic and resulting international crisis that will be useful for researchers in current and future times. It is important to be clear, when either deciding to pursue similar projects or continuing current projects, about the overall goals for the project and how to conduct such a project with respect to potential narrators, project staff, and institutional resources.
Considerations for Remote Interviewing
Please note, the following sections are designed to be used with the decision tree to provide additional information and context for various topics and issues mentioned in the tree. They are provided here for users who may not have internet access while using the decision tree or would prefer to see this in a longer narrative format.
1. Considerations for Choosing an In-Person vs. Remote Interview
There are many benefits and advantages to conducting an in-person interview, but there are times when meeting in person is not feasible or advisable. There are also times when a remote interview is the better method for the narrator, interviewer, or both. The following list of questions is meant to help you decide which is the best option, but the answers to each question may not clearly point in either direction. It is important to engage in a tactful discussion with the narrator about these questions and to use your best judgement. These questions can and should be revisited in any interviewing situation.
- What are the narrator’s preferences? Do they feel it is important to conduct the interview in the present time, or would they prefer to wait?
- What is the ultimate goal of the recorded interview? Is it solely for historical documentation, or a web-based production (e.g. podcast, vlog)? Is it for a broadcast documentary?
- What is the minimum quality level of the interview audio and/or video needed for your goal?
- What are the project deadlines? Can interviews wait, or is it important to gather interviews at the present time?
- If travel/meeting restrictions are in place and an in-person interview is possible at a later date, can the interview be postponed?
- Is the narrator located too far away to conduct an in-person interview in the near future?
- Is it possible you may have issues making a connection with and/or locating the narrator at a later date?
- What is the health and/or mobility of the narrator? Of the interviewer? Do health, disabilities, or other concerns make an in-person interview challenging?
2. Hardware Considerations
When determining whether a remote interview is possible on a computer, tablet, or other mobile device, it is critical to consider not just the operating system and access to internet connectivity, but also the hardware available to both narrator and interviewer.
With computers, laptops, tablets, or other mobile devices, built-in hardware, like microphones and also webcams, is likely relatively poor quality with recording the call in mind. If both interviewee and narrator can use external microphones and headphones, this is the best, and most simple, option for creating a quality audio recording and is highly recommended.
Special consideration may include an in-person assistant to the narrator where troubleshooting and setup for making the connection is needed. If this is a necessity and not available, choose the path that is the simplest to succeed for both connecting and recording over prioritizing quality considerations.
All recorded parties should ideally plan to have some sort of external microphone and headphones. The complexity of hardware setup for remote interviewing can range from very simple options, like earbuds with built in microphones, to complex options, like a high-quality USB or audio-interface microphone (similar to what you would use for in-person interviews) and external headphones. Something also to consider is many externally-connected webcams also have decent built-in microphones.
While internal webcams for laptops and tablets are often of a good enough quality to connect to narrators remotely, if the interview is being recorded in video format, you might consider making external webcam options available to both the interviewer and narrator.
An additional consideration for video interviews is lighting. A simple option might be proper placement of laptop or mobile device relative to lighting sources (natural lighting is often better). A more complex option for external lighting hardware might be accomplished by using a ring light or other form of external lighting setup.
3. Audio vs. Video Recording
There are many variables to consider when deciding whether to record a remote interview in an audio or video format. Access and comfort with technology are primary drivers, but equally important are the narrator’s preference, any specific project goals related to recording preference, and any partnering archive’s preservation considerations.
Why Record Video in Remote Interviews
One of the primary challenges with remote interviewing is the loss of rapport between narrator and interviewer that comes from interacting in a shared physical space.
Pros: A benefit of recording the video connection for the remote interviewing is added context to the interview process, including non-verbal communication and insights into overall interview engagement. Most remote interview recording options do not have the ability to generate high quality video recordings, which generally means there are limitations to the application for engagement with these video files outside of general reference, but also tends to mean the files are relatively small in digital file size (which won’t break the digital storage bank).
Cons: To record a video interview, outside of the considerations for a narrator or interviewers access to strong broad-band internet connections and hardware allowing for video connections, there may be additional issues as to why an individual does not want to be visually linked with an oral history interview. For instance, there may be a reluctance to have their (narrator or interviewer) personal environment captured in a space destined for public access. There are also considerations on the low quality of a video file generated through remote interviewing platforms and whether a partnering archive has a preference on the storage and long term maintenance of these types of formats.
Why Record Audio In Remote Interviews
Pros: There are multiple platforms that allow for an audio-only recording of an oral history interview, whether connecting via landline, mobile phone, or computer/internet enabled device. A key consideration in deciding to record an audio interview would be ease-of-use for connecting with the narrator. With so many connection and recording options, this can be the least stressful option for narrators without regular use of a video conferencing system or setup. There are options for high-quality recording for audio files, which archival partners often prefer for long-term preservation, and with higher clarity and recording quality, these can also have greater application down the road for public engagement.
Cons: Without a visual connection the interviewer and narrator have to rely solely on verbal cues for engagement. If a visual connection exists and only an audio file is recorded, subtleties in the visual communication may be lost to later audiences, similar to an in-person audio recorded interview.
Though successful interviews can be conducted without having a visual connection, when selecting a remote interviewing set-up, consider preferencing platforms where possible that allow for face-to-face connection to the narrator and interviewer, whether the video file is part of the recorded capture (or archival file) or not.
4. Archival Considerations
Oral history archiving best practices stress the importance of creating standard, high resolution, uncompressed media files for long-term preservation. Digital audio recordings maintained by archives should be stored as either WAV or Broadcast WAV. For video, while there is less absolute certainty on a single file format, the goals run toward files that are either uncompressed, utilize lossless compression, and/or are saved in widely accepted and widely adopted file formats.
Following these best practices, archives will normally reformat digital files they receive by converting them to standard, uncompressed formats. As noted, digital video poses special challenges for archives since high quality, uncompressed digital video files are extremely large, even by contemporary storage standards. Different archives will manage digital video files in their own ways depending on their ability to generate, access, store and sustain uncompressed files over time.
Most of the widely-available remote interviewing platforms such as Zoom generate media files in compressed formats. While there are options for creating high-quality audio files using remote systems—specifically some of the audio-only podcasting systems reviewed in Web Based Recording—there will still be a level of compression that happens through the mechanism used to connect the narrator and the interviewer. Furthermore, in addition to utilizing file compression, remotely recorded audio and video files are often created at a base-line lower resolution than those generated in person using professional equipment.
What Should I Do?
So what can we do when best practices stress one thing and circumstances force upon us something counter to them? First, cut yourself a break—these are not normal times, and as Voltaire wrote, “the best is the enemy of the good.” If you are unable to put off your project until the pandemic has safely receded, use the tools available to you now. While they may not be perfect, they are certainly better than nothing.
If you have partnered with, or are connected to, an archival repository, reach out to them for guidance regarding how they would like to receive the files you created, and what additional supporting documentation they will need from you. Ideally they can guide you through the process of reformatting or will assume responsibility for doing so.
What if You are Not Working with an Archive?
This is where individual familiarity and comfort levels with the specifics of digital audio and video become more important. Below we will address a few small things you should consider in order to manage your files on your own.
A digital file name needs to be unique and, in the context of oral history work, convey at least some minimal information to the user about the content of the file. Developing a basic file naming structure is helpful for managing digital media materials. A simple approach to file naming could incorporate things like the name of the narrator, date of the interview and kind of file–for example, smith-jane_2020-07-05_video.mp4. For additional file naming advice see the helpful 5 Tips For What NOT To Do When Creating A File Naming Structure.
In the context of oral history materials, metadata is a somewhat esoteric way of describing the information you collect and store about your interviews–the who, what were and when, as well other things such as subject keywords, permissions and various other details. Keep track of these things using the tools you favor most–a spreadsheet, a word processing file, a notebook. All this information will be valuable to an archive down the road. Preserving these metadata alongside the files is the best way to ensure continued intellectual access to their content.
Most commonly-used remote recording platforms create audio recordings in the compressed MP3 file format. In general, archives will convert MP3 files to WAV or Broadcast WAV as a part of their digital preservation strategy. Converting MP3 to WAV is relatively simple for anyone with access to and familiarity with audio editing software. To do so, open the original MP3 with your audio editing software and use the “Save As” command (or its equivalent) to convert to WAV. Be sure to retain the original file in addition to the WAV file you created.
From this point on, digital audio preservation gets technical pretty quickly, and if that is not something you’re interested in, you might think about finding a partner who is. However, if you would like to learn a little bit more about some digital audio fundamentals, a recent audio field recording workshop hosted by the American Folklore Society and the Oral History Association does address some key concepts. Although focused on recording and recording technology, John Fenn of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and Andy Kolovos of the Vermont Folklife Center talk in some detail about things such as sampling rate and bit depth. The video is available for free to OHA members here: https://oha.memberclicks.net/oha-webinar.
As noted elsewhere, while archives have largely settled on an approach to preserving digital audio, digital video preservation is a much more complicated affair. The considerations for determining assessing and prioritizing file structures for video are generally whether it is: 1) uncompressed 2) lossless and 3) ubiquitous. It is most often not possible to attain all three in a single file format, but suggestions might be MPEG-2, MOV, or MPEG-4. For someone working on their own without archive support, the simplest advice is to name your files consistently and leave them in their original formats. If you plan on editing or transcribing your recordings, create a duplicate set of work files for access. Keep your originals set aside as your preservation files. For more on video file preservation, see the FADGI audio-video working group suggestions: http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/video_reformatting_compare.html.
Redundancy–keeping multiple copies of your files on different storage media–is crucial to preserving your digital files. If you have access to server space through work or school and can store materials there, by all means do so. Purchase one or more external disk drives, save your files to them and store the drives in two different physical locations. If the material in the interviews is not sensitive, look into cloud storage through services such as DropBox or Google Drive. Always keep in mind the concept of LOCKSS: Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.
If you are working with an archival partner, reach out to them for support and advice regarding how to manage your digital audio and video files. If you are not working with an archival partner, there are a few simple steps you can take to maintain intellectual access to your recordings and help preserve the files over time.
When looking at the video files generated through platforms like Zoom, it is less of a question of storage size (a Zoom one-hour recorded video and audio file is roughly 170MB) and more a question of whether an archive has the ability to manage digital video files within their current infrastructure and wants to take on preservation and access for a video recording that has limited use for public engagement outside of general reference.
A potential option for archives struggling to capture the highest quality and most stable recording for remote interviewing which allows narrator and interviewer to connect visually might be to pair a video platform for connection and a separate audio platform for recording (see more about this on web based recording).
- Oral History Association Principles and Best Practices for archives document: https://www.oralhistory.org/archives-principles-and-best-practices-overview/
- Simplified goals for media preservation files (library of congress file format recommendations: https://www.loc.gov/preservation/resources/rfs/TOC-rev.html)
- Ideal File Formats
Audio: Broadcast WAV
Video: MPEG-2, MOV
- Acceptable formats:
Audio: WAV, AIFF, FLAC
- Is the recorded file going to be managed long term by the oral historian or placed in a repository?
- If relevant, check with the repository you are housing collections to confirm specifications (generally there is a minimum level).
- Regardless of how the file was generated, the goal is still to save preservation files to a lossless format for archiving. For audio, convert any compressed files like MP3 to WAV or Broadcast WAV.
- Most common video formats employ some kind of file compression as a way to control file size
- As a place to start, the Personal Digital Archiving resources created by the Library of Congress are helpful for a quick introduction to some of the basics of managing digital materials on your own. Although very useful, it does not go into the particulars of file formats and settings.
5. Compressed vs. Uncompressed
The question of which file type to choose for recording remote interviews is something that should be decided during the planning phase of any interview series. If the interviewer is working with an archive, this is the time to consult these partnerships on any preferences. Whatever you choose, be deliberate and informed about options and process.
What Do We Mean By “Compression?”
One hour of uncompressed stereo audio at “CD Quality” requires approximately 635MB of storage. The same content saved as a high quality MP3 file–a compressed format–requires roughly 87MB. As this comparison indicates, digital file compression saves storage space. However, the savings often comes with a compromise: reduced audio fidelity. Best practices for oral history interview recording stress the importance of recording in uncompressed, standard file formats (for example WAV or Broadcast WAV when recording audio) whenever possible.
Lossy vs. Lossless Compression
The primary purposes of digital file compression are to decrease file size to facilitate remote transmission and to reduce digital storage demands. Digital file compression includes two categories: “lossy” and “lossless” compression. Lossy compression reduces file size by, essentially, throwing away data–once these data are removed, they cannot be restored. The MP3 format employs lossy compression. Lossless compression reduces file size without throwing away data. The compressed media formats created through most remote interviewing systems employ lossy compression.
Opening a compressed media file in an editing system and resaving it in a compressed format will cause the already-compressed file to be compressed once again, with a resulting decrease in file size and associated decrease in fidelity/resolution. This is referred to as “compounding compression.” If you are unable to convert your compressed files to an uncompressed equivalent file format, maintain a copy of the original file as your “preservation” file and use a separate version of it for any editing work or other file manipulation.
When conducting in-person interviews using audio or video, oral historians have a wide-range of equipment options for tailoring recording quality to archival standards. In the context of remote interviewing, interviewers are constrained by the limitations of the remote recording systems they use and the telecommunications infrastructure over which these systems run. Most of the options for remote interview recording (for example Zoom) generate audio and video files that utilize compression to reduce the amount of data being transmitted, and export these files in compressed formats such as MP3 audio and MP4 video.
When conducting interviews remotely, options for high-quality or uncompressed recording processes are limited–and often depend on a wide range of variables such as bandwidth. For archives working with interviews that have been recorded remotely, it is best to be as flexible as possible.
Following oral history best practices, audio recordings should be created in a standard, uncompressed file format such as WAV or Broadcast WAV. For video, while there is less absolute certainty on a single file format to strive towards, the goals run towards 1) uncompressed 2) lossless and 3) ubiquitous.
These best practices are difficult to achieve when recording remotely, since most remote recording systems generate media files in compressed formats. Do the best you can with what you have available to you, and reach out to your chosen archival repository for guidance on how to reformat interview recording files for deposit. For more details on archives, see Archival Considerations.
6. Cloud vs Local File Capture
There are two primary options for capturing a recording file during a remote interview: cloud capture and local file capture.
Cloud File Capture
Pros: A more seamless recording experience for platforms that have cloud storage integrated, as well as built-in options to some platforms for speech-to-text transcription services.
Cons: Security concerns over the files being recorded to/kept on a cloud storage platform. Instances where this might be a factor are if there are concerns on security of access to the file. If the interview is discussing sensitive topics or the narrator is high profile there may be an elevated concern. File creation in a cloud environment that isn’t secured by the interviewer is another concern. Projects working under an Institutional Review Board protocol might be required to steer away from cloud-based file capture for security reasons. Speech-to-text services built into the cloud services tested are still lacking in accuracy. In some instances, remote interviewing systems allow for cloud file storage of recorded audio files to be stored directly on a cloud system like Dropbox or Google Drive. This may satisfy some issues with security.
Local File Capture
Pros: More control over access to recorded interview files.
Cons: Requires available space to store files on local hardware. Possible issues in file management if multiple interviewers are working on a collective project.
7. Backup Recording
As with in-person interviews, the interviewer may want to consider establishing a backup recording methodology for remote sessions, particularly when dealing with new technology. Backup options fall under two main categories. First, the interviewer can use physical hardware to capture the interviewee sound produced by a computer/tablet/smartphone speaker or landline speakerphone system while simultaneously capturing the interviewer’s voice locally. Such options include setting professional audio recording devices/microphones near the sources of sound, or even using recording applications on a smartphone if that device is not the primary piece of equipment used for the interview. Second, if interviews are conducted on a video conferencing platform, there are a number of software options that allow the interviewer to capture a local copy of the audio or video recording. There are native software options for PC (Xbox Game Bar) and Mac (Quicktime) that allow for screen capture recording where the user defines which program or area of their screen to record, and all video and sound is captured within an MP4 (PC) or MOV (Mac) file that is stored on a local hard drive after the recording ends. There are also a number of third-party software solutions that work with various video conferencing software suites to provide expanded recording capability.
8. Visual vs Physical Signatures
Having a signed release form (and related paperwork) is essential to any interview. In-person interviewing allows for a paper copy of the release to be signed, but in a remote interviewing environment this is not feasible. Fortunately, there are many options to obtain a signed release; any particular option may work for an entire project, but you may need to customize based on what is best for each narrator.
- Accepted as secure
- Comfortable for most users
- Ensures transparency of interaction
- Does not require navigating issues with different technology capacity
- May require an extra nudge for the narrator to complete and return the form in a timely manner
- Good if signatures are promptly needed
- Good if any exchange of paper/mail is problematic
- Learning curve for users
- Consider concerns when addressing any special requests, embargoes, etc. in a digital environment
- Privacy concerns
- May require navigating issues with different technology capacity
Options for Secure Remote Signing
- E-signature services
- Print, scan, and return/mobile device picture
E-signature Service Options
- Adobe Acrobat (free version or Pro paid version – $14/mo with e-signature): Newer versions of Adobe Acrobat allow the narrator to digitally sign a document using the cursor or on mobile devices, a finger. The file is then saved with the digital signature, and can be emailed or printed and mailed back. Narrators may not know about this functionality, so be sure to provide instructions if needed. Compatible with Google Drive and Box. Many organizations already have an Adobe Acrobat Pro subscription.
- Docusign (free trial or paid version starts at $10/mo for 5 signatures/mo): DocuSign lets you send, sign, and access documents and is compatible with web-based platforms, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. One of the features Docusign promotes is that data it manages and organizes in documents are processed and stored in a system that complies with data protection protocols (more on security here: https://www.docusign.com/blog/is-your-esignature-safe). Narrators would not need any special software to sign. Has reports of being clunky for signatories in figuring out where to sign.
- Jotform (free version – 100 signatures/mo or paid versions – starting $24/mo): Has a HIPPA compliant version as a paid subscription. Non-profit and education discounts (50%). Narrators would not need any special software. Free version can be confusing for the recipient because it encourages signing up for an account, even though it is not required.
- Pandadoc (free account – unlimited signatures or paid versions start $19/mo): Claims to have integration with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box with all versions, as well as signature reminders. Narrators would not need any special software to sign. For security, Pandadoc states, “SOC Type 2 compliant, and all data is encrypted while in transit and at rest.”
- Qualtrics (secure survey system – paid version only): Considered to have a high level of security. Not ideal for a templated form, but if content can be put into survey form, could offer a secure alternative for e-signature. Many academic organizations have institutional subscriptions to secure survey systems. Already approved applications for most IRB processes.
Physical Signature Options
- Emailing a PDF of the release form: This allows the narrator to print and sign the form, then generate an image of the signed form and return via email or physical mail. This option does require the narrator to have a printer, and additionally a scanner or another method to produce an image of the signed release form, like a mobile device with a camera. If the narrator prefers to mail the form back, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
- Mailing a printed release form that can then be signed and mailed back: Be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the narrator to use to return the form.
Programs and projects may have narrators sign release forms before any interviewing begins, while others wait until interviewing is completed, and still others wait until the transcript review is complete. No matter when you have narrators sign forms, in a remote interviewing situation, you need to properly assess this timing.
9. Elevated Level of Security
Remote interviewing options rely on information being transmitted over phone lines or internet connections and present security issues not found in an in-person interview. Situations that might require the interviewer to consider elevated levels of security include interviews that contain sensitive information, interviews with high profile individuals or people targeted for surveillance (activists, dissidents), interviews with people involved in legal proceedings, interviews that will be embargoed for a period of time, or any interview where the participant has concerns about how accessible the interview will be to the public.
Remote Interview Security Considerations
Phone recordings are likely the most secure way to conduct a remote interview, depending on how much of the connection itself is web-based. Web-based software is more vulnerable to interruptions, rights issues, and hacking of cloud-based storage. Security questions to ask concerning your project might include: Can confidentiality of the interview be assured? Is the software provider routinely recording and/or retaining content? Does the software provider retain rights over what is recorded? Where can you store the recordings for most security (see also, Cloud versus Local Recording)? Are all users up to date with the newest versions of the software? What kinds of security provisions come with the software? Can you use password protection for the connection itself? Can you use encryption to transfer files?
If you are discussing health issues, you need to consider the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and determine if your web-conferencing software is HIPAA compliant. Most commonly-available web-conferencing software was not created with a consideration for security and privacy rules of HIPAA. Zoom does offer a HIPAA-compliant version that requires a twelve-month minimum subscription at $200/month. You may want to check if your institution or partnering institution has such access.
Interviewers and/or project managers who are fortunate enough to have access to advisory groups or boards may want to solicit advice on handling security for sensitive interviews. For example, a university’s Institutional Review Board–depending on their board make-up and their interest in the project–may be able to advise on protocols concerning sensitive communications and file transfer.
10. Access and Inclusion
How can you think proactively about inclusion and mitigate barriers to access to the tools you are using? Remote interviewing can be a key item in an inclusive oral history toolkit. Oral historians working in a disability justice framework have experience with remote interviewing from which oral historians new to the remote interviewing practice can learn valuable lessons. Disability rights activists have long worked to develop and gain access to the very tools we are all now relying on for working, learning, and communicating remotely. In acknowledging this lineage, it is important to also recognize that disabled people were often denied access to the very types of remote access now widely mandated.
It is important to think proactively about how to make sure you and your narrator can access the digital tools you are using throughout the oral history process. As you and the narrator are making decisions about the remote interview method/platform, including release forms and interview review, be sure to check in regarding any limitations in your tools, and barriers these may create for you or your narrator. This should be approached as a way of activating a narrator’s expertise about their own ways of communicating and moving through the world. Note that access needs may change over the course of the oral history process, and keep lines of communication open with regular check-ins.
Understanding the accessibility features of the platforms you may use in a remote interview is work you should do before the interview process begins to better understand and meet the needs of narrators. Narrators or interviewers with hearing, speech, or visual impairments may find some platforms and modalities of interviewing more accessible than others. You may ask if your narrator has limitations on how long they can look at a screen, or sit for an interview, or if you need to plan for any interpretation or translation services.
For more information on developing an inclusive online oral history practice, please review the following:
In addition, these links below are specific to accessibility in online teaching but offer things to think about that might be useful for oral history project design/interviewing:
Thank you to Nicki Pombier Berger for her assistance in writing and conceptualizing this Access and Inclusion pop-out.
The following documents compare recording platforms and hardware drawn from personal experiences of oral historians. While by no means exhaustive, these documents can serve as a starting place for examining various options for remote interviewing.
These case studies are meant to provide a detailed look at a variety of remote interviewing platforms as they are employed in specific oral history scenarios. Special thanks to the programs and individuals who took the time to share their experience.
- Zencastr Interview Process (Vermont Folklife Center)
- Rev Call Recorder (Vermont Folklife Center)
- JK Audio QuickTap (Baylor University Institute for Oral History)
- Zoom (Columbia Center for Oral History Research)
- Zoom – elevated security (Columbia Center for Oral History Research)
Remote Interviewing Online Resources:
- American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, ‘Remote Fieldwork: Tech Considerations’ https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2020/05/remote-fieldwork-tech-considerations/
- Association of Independents in Radio, ‘Remote Recording Tips and Tricks’ https://airmedia.org/tools/remote-recording-tips-and-tricks
- Baylor Institute for Oral History and Oral History Association webinar, ‘Oral History at a Distance: Conducting Remote INterviews,’ https://www.baylor.edu/oralhistory/index.php?id=969450
- J. Towne, ‘Recording During The Coronavirus Pandemic’, https://transom.org/2020/recording-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/
- Center for Oral History Research at Columbia University, ‘Resources for Covid-19 Interviewing’, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JhVCj1Vvc1hHsioMpna_0DITmY7Ad4Kv6ZrUojapVgI/edit
- LSU Libraries T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, ‘Remote Interviewing Considerations’ https://www.lib.lsu.edu/sites/default/files/info/remote_interviewing_worksheet_0.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2zl6fv3pj0FBBNGTdmXx8UWDujgQSKTxGjQOag2s4MyYdKN3fe683gt7w
- NPR Training, ‘Reporting From Home: How NPR Correspondents Do It’ (Mar 18, 2020) https://training.npr.org/2020/03/18/reporting-from-home-how-npr-correspondents-do-it/
- Office for Human Research Protections, ‘OHRP Issues Guidance for Application of the Human Subjects Protection Regulations to Actions Taken in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic’ https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/ohrp-issued-ohrp-guidance-covid-19.html
- Oral History Association-Archives Interest Group collaborative document, ‘Resources, examples, group experience to draw on to prepare Guidelines for Remote Oral History Interviewing’, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PSTjlzQuqcADjFs6QWm7VZaNNtIjVJwg1AsN1EsrIyU/edit#head ing=h.our4i8ord71y
- Oral History Review, COVID-19 Oral History Resources, http://oralhistoryreview.org/covid-19-resources/
- Oral History Society ‘Advice on remote oral history interviewing during the Covid-19 pandemic,’ https://www.ohs.org.uk/advice/covid-19/
- University of California, Berkeley Oral History Center ‘Remote Interviewing with Zoom webinar,’ https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/libraries/bancroft-library/oral-history-center/remote-interviewing
- Society of American Archivists ‘Documenting in Times of Crisis: A Resource Kit’ https://www2.archivists.org/advocacy/documenting-in-times-of-crisis-a-resource-kit
- Vermont Folklife Center, ‘Recording Interviews Remotely’, https://www.vermontfolkli fecenter.org/remote-recording
Remote interviewing in times of crisis bibliography
- Evan Faulkenbury (2020) Journalism, COVID-19, and the Opportunity of Oral History, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1791723
- Ana Paulina Lee & Kimberly Springer (2020) Socially Engaged Oral History Pedagogy amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1793678
- Jennifer A. Cramer (2020) “First, Do No Harm”: Tread Carefully Where Oral History, Trauma, and Current Crises Intersect, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1793679
- Stephen M. Sloan (2020) Behind the ‘Curve’: COVID-19, Infodemic, and Oral History, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1798256
- Anna F. Kaplan (2020) Cultivating Supports while Venturing into Interviewing during COVID-19, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1791724
- Jason M. Kelly (2020) The COVID-19 Oral History Project: Some Preliminary Notes from the Field, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1798257
- Allison K. Tracy-Taylor (2020) Leading in the Time of Corona, The Oral History Review, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1797510
- V. Berridge and S. Taylor, ‘The problems of commissioned oral history: the swine flu “crisis” of 2009’, Oral History, 2019, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 86-94.
- M. Cave, ‘Through Hell and High Water: New Orleans, August 29–September 15, 2005’, The Oral History Review, 2008, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 1-10.
- M. Cave and S. M. Sloan (eds), Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis, New York, Oxford University Press, 2014.
- V. Chhabra, ‘Connecting care competencies and culture during disasters’, Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock, 2009, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 95-98. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-2700.50743
- M. Firouzkouhi, A. Zargham-Boroujeni, M. Kako, A. Abdollahimohammad, ‘Experiences of civilian nurses in triage during the Iran-Iraq War: An oral history’, Chinese Journal of Traumatology, 2017, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 288-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjtee.2017.07.002
- C. Hamilton, ‘On being a “good” interviewer: empathy, ethics and the politics of oral history’, Oral History, 2008, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 35-43.
- N. V. Hay-Gibson, ‘Interviews via VoIP: Benefits and Disadvantages within a PhD study of SMEs’, Library and Information Research, 2009, vol. 33, no. 105. https://doi.org/10.29173/lirg111
- K. Holmes, ‘Does It Matter If She Cried? Recording Emotion and the Australian Generations Oral History Project’, The Oral History Review, 2017, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 56-76.
- M. Klempner, ‘Navigating life review interviews with survivors of trauma’ in R. Perks and A. Thomson (eds), The Oral History Reader, 2nd edition, London, Routledge, 2006, pp. 202-06.
- D. Jones, ‘Distressing histories and unhappy interviewing’, Oral History, 1998, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 49-56.
- D. Laub, ‘Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening’, in S. Felman, Shoshana and D. Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, New York, Routledge, 1992, pp. 57-74.
- V. Lo Iacona, P. Symonds, D. H.K. Brown, ‘Skype as a Tool for Qualitative Research Interviews’, Sociological Research Online, 2016, vol. 21, no. 2. http://www.socresonline.org.uk/21/2/12.html
- C. Lunsford Mears, ‘A Columbine Study: Giving Voice, Hearing Meaning.’ The Oral History Review, 2008, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 159–75.
- M. Marshall Clark, ‘Case Study: Field Notes on Catastrophe: Reflections on the September 11, 2001 Oral History Memory and Narrative Project’, in Donald A Ritchie, Oxford Handbook of Oral History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 255-64.
- M. Marshall Clark, ‘The September 11, 2001, Oral History Narrative and Memory Project: A First Report, The Journal of American History 2002, vol. 89, no. 2, pp. 569-79. https://doi.org/10.2307/3092175
- E. McCarthy, ‘“Is oral history good for you?” Taking oral history beyond documentation and into a clinical setting: first steps’, The Oral History Review, 2010, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 159-69.
- J. A. Navarro, ‘A Tale of Many Cities: A Contemporary Historical Study of the Implementation of School Closures during the 2009 pA(H1N1) Influenza Pandemic’, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 2016, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 393-421. https://doi.org/10.1215/03616878-3523958
- S. M. Oltmann, ‘Qualitative Interviews: Methodological Discussion of the Interviewer and Respondent Contexts’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2016, vol. 17, no. 2, art. 15. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/2551
- D. R. Penner, ‘Assault Rifles, Separated Families, and Murder in Their Eyes: Unasked Questions after Hurricane Katrina’, Journal of American Studies, 2010, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 573–99. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875810001246
- W. Rickard, ‘Oral history: “More dangerous than therapy?” Interviewees’ reflections on recording traumatic and taboo issues’, Oral History, 1998, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 38-48. https://www.ohs.org.uk/journal/ohj-50/
- M. Schober, ‘The future of face-to-face interviewing’, Quality Assurance in Education, 2018, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 290-302. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-06-2017-0033
- S. Sloan, ‘Oral History and Hurricane Katrina: Reflections on Shouts and Silences’, The Oral History Review, 2008, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 176-86.
- V. R. Yow, ‘Ethics and interpersonal relationships in oral history research’, The Oral History Review, 1995, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 51-66. V. R. Yow, ‘What can oral historians learn from psychotherapists?’, Oral History, 2018, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 33-41.