Consider making time for family storytelling this holiday season. Past holiday traditions, favorite foods, and music are just some of the topics that might come up! For example, in an oral history conducted by author Emily Herring Wilson, Wake Forest resident Evelyn Jones reminisced about her favorite Christmas treats and shared a story about her grandmother:
“California grapes and raisins that were still on the stems were something that we looked forward to, and she would always have boxes of them under her bed. And as children we couldn’t wait to get over to Ma Missy’s house at Christmastime to see what she had gotten us and to get all the confectionaries that she was going to give us. And that, that was my mother’s mother.”Evelyn Jones, interviewed by Emily Herring Wilson on January 19, 2013
Interviewing family and friends is a great way to make new memories and preserve a bit of history. Some of our most valuable sources at the museum are interviews. If you record some of your family’s stories this year, we’d love to hear them!
There are many online guides on conducting oral histories. The Southern Oral History Program provides a list of resources for planning an oral history project. StoryCorps also recently launched The Great Listen, a national initiative that teaches young people the importance of storytelling and encourages them to interview elders in their family and community over the Thanksgiving holiday. If you decide to conduct an oral history interview with family or friends, we’ve provided some tips below.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to prepare. You should compile a list of open-ended interview questions, but don’t worry about going “off-script.” The best stories are often unexpected! Interviewers should also avoid interrupting the narrator or adding their own perspectives too often. If you want to record your interview most cellphones have built in audio recorders, but a video camera works too. The free StoryCorps app also allows individuals to record interviews on their phone. Always remember to record the date of the interview by stating the date and names of everyone participating at the beginning of the recording. Most importantly, never record anyone without their permission.
Here are some interview questions to help you get started:
- What was your favorite holiday as a child and why? How did you celebrate? Who did you gather with?
- What were your favorite foods to eat as a child? What were your least favorite foods?
- What did you like or dislike about school as a child? What did you learn? What did you do for fun? What grade do you remember most and why?
- Did you watch television or listen to the radio regularly as a child? What types of music did you listen to as a teenager? How did you listen to music?
Next time you visit the Wake Forest Historical Museum, be sure to stop by the Women’s History exhibit where you can listen to more of Evelyn’s interview. You can also view some of our favorite oral histories on the Wake Forest Historical Museum’s YouTube Channel.