Tiffanyanne Mills
Amy Molitor
Environmental Studies 220
October 20, 2004

 

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site has a long and fascinating history. Developed as a tribute to the founders of the town, it has become an invaluable resource for historical preservation and education. In the spirit of historical preservation the site decided to take on the challenge of creating its own oral history program. I was hired on as an intern to take on that responsibility. Supervising my work was Mike Dedman, an education specialist working for the Whitman Mission.

The main objective was to create a program that could be used to preserve the oral history of the community. I was to essentially develop a packet of all the information, forms, and guidelines needed in order to interview someone. Those interviews were to then be transcribed into a Word document so they could be both more accessible to the public and better preserved. I was also responsible for developing a system of cataloging both the tapes and the transcribed interviews.

My individual goals for the project were to review the literature on the subject, connect with other National Parks units with oral history programs, review suggestions and potential document use, determine any specific needs for the Whitman Mission, and then produce the program. At the end of the development stage I wanted to start working on putting the program into practice by transcribing interviews, developing the cataloging system, and perhaps even creating new interviews. I felt like all of this could be done relatively easily by working 1-2 hours per week. Additional concerns for the project included maintaining a budget and writing a news release at the end of the project.

The bulk of the project has mainly been research based. The large majority of my time thus far has been spent on reading the materials necessary to understand the needs of an oral history program. I had no oral history background so I spent much of my time looking online at all the different types of oral history programs. I wanted to have a better understanding of why it is people focus on oral histories. I discovered that oral histories are used to preserve the actual thoughts and feelings of a particular population rather than just the barebones facts. There is so much more to history than simply facts, history is really about the interpretation of these facts by a population. This is where oral histories are important and why the Whitman Mission is so interested in preserving the oral history of the mission. While researching different oral history programs I found that there was a standard program format, however many of these programs had their own personal touches that helped customize them to fit their particular topic. One thing that the Whitman Mission would like to do is to make as much information about the site available to the public as possible, so perhaps a good way for them to catalogue the interviews would be to create a web based system or at least a link from their website to the interviews. I have not had time to work on the cataloguing system so this could be something for the next intern to work on.

In just a few short months, I have certainly learned quite a bit about the importance of recording oral history. People can learn so much about how life was before they were born simply by listening to those around them. Often more can be learned about what life was like from an oral history than any facts or books on the same subject. Though facts and data should not be overlooked, they cannot compare to human experiences. The people here in Walla Walla have strong ties to the areas history and it was through the work of the community that the Whitman Mission became a national historic site. I was really disappointed that I did not get a chance to listen to the recorded oral histories because they seemed like they would be quite fascinating.

Despite my enjoyment of the project, I have experienced a few problems that have made the experience more difficult than it should be. The development of the project took up much more time than I had at my disposal, therefore I did not get as far as I would have liked. My main problem was in finding time to do all the reading necessary to fully understand all the nuances of developing an oral history program, as well as understanding the history of the Whitman Mission itself. The packets Mike gave me were very helpful but I wanted a well-rounded knowledge of oral history programs and in order to do that I had to do some research. Most of the research I did was online and it was not limited to other oral history programs. I spent quite a bit of time looking up how to create legal documents such as the Gift Deed Agreement and the Consent and Release Form, both of which are crucial to any oral history program. Other necessary information included how to conduct an interview, and what sort of equipment is necessary. I probably could have gotten some of this information from the Mike and other people working at the mission but, I found myself without any reliable transportation. All of my friends who drive had classes or work during the Thursday and Friday, which were the only days available for me to go. Around midterms someone I knew who would be able to drive me started looking into buying a car but they did not end up buying one, so I was once more without transportation. Thankfully I was able to get much of the necessary information either by e-mail or telephone.

I am pleased with the program I have developed. This program is an accumulation of the work I have been doing for the semester and I feel like it is clean and professional. After I had finished my research and looked through my notes I started to actually create the documents needed for the program. I am afraid that it might be too short, but I did make sure to include all the information that would be needed to maintain an oral history program. The next step will be in implementation of the program. I feel that I have included enough information so that the next student intern will be able to get right to work on that. I included a few good references for them to look at as well.

An internship is an invaluable resource for learning how to work in “the real world.” Internships teach students how to work independently and get a project done. It also gives students a chance to meet with professionals in their field of study. These professionals are full of knowledge and are more often than not willing to share that knowledge. My internship has given me a greater perspective of the Walla Walla community. For anyone thinking of doing a similar internship in the future or for that matter any internship at all, there are a few pieces of information that it would be good to know. First off be prepared for a lot of reading. Many of the internships available are on topics you may not be familiar with. I really think it is important to fully understand your topic so that you will be better able to work with the professionals you may be seeing everyday. On a similar vein, it is important to maintain regular communication with your sponsor. There is possibly nothing more important than being on the same page and understanding exactly what your sponsor needs from you. Another smaller, yet still important, concern is transportation. Be sure that you will be able to get to your internship site, even if the project is mostly offsite. Finally, be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to making it work. At the very least it will take up a lot of your semester and if you decide to continue on with it, it will take even more time and energy, because having a lot of energy and excitement for a project makes all the difference.

 

 

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

Introduction

Introductory Letter Template

Thank You Letter Template

Consent and Release Form

Gift Deed Agreement Form

Loan Form

Equipment Checklist

Interview Checklist

Interview Summary – Tape Index

Things to Remember when Conducting an Interview

Bibliography

 

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Introduction

 

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site has a long and fascinating history. Developed as a tribute to the founders of the town, it has become an invaluable resource for historical preservation and education. In the spirit of historical preservation the site decided to take on the challenge of creating its own oral history program. Supervising the project is Mike Dedman, an education specialist working for the Whitman Mission.

The main objective of the project was to create a program that could be used to preserve the oral history of the community, especially that concerning the Whitman Mission. This packet will provide all the information, forms, and guidelines needed in order to interview someone. These interviews will then be catalogued and transcribed into a Word document so they can be both more accessible to the public and better preserved.

Oral histories are an important tool used to preserve the actual thoughts and feelings of a particular population rather than just the barebones facts. There is so much more to history than simply facts, history is really about the interpretation of these facts by a population. This is where oral histories are important and why the Whitman Mission is so interested in preserving the oral history of the mission. Though facts and data should not be overlooked, they cannot compare to human experiences. The people here in Walla Walla have strong ties to the areas history and it was through the work of the community that the Whitman Mission became a national historic site. This packet tried to include all the information that would be needed to maintain an oral history program. The next step will be in implementation of the program.  

 

 

INTRODUCTORY LETTER TEMPLATE

 

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Date

(name and address)

 

Dear (name),

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is interested in expanding our oral history collection in order to gain new insights on the history and creation of the Whitman Mission as a national historic site, as well as learn more about the connection between the site and the Walla Walla community.

In order to develop a complete picture of the history of the Whitman Mission and connection it has maintained within the Walla Walla community, we are utilizing a variety of different historical documentation and library materials. We are also extremely interested in the personal accounts from members of the community. To collect this information we would like to tape-record interviews with willing community members. We feel that the information provided by community members is invaluable to a complete documented history of the region. We would appreciate any personal experience from members of the community.

We were given your name by (blank), as someone who might be interested in talking to us regarding (specific topic).

We would also be very excited to see any sort of documentary materials you may have from pictures of the area to personal letters. Any other documents pertaining to the Whitman Mission or the Walla Walla community in general would also be of interest.

The tape-recorded interview is simply a taped conversation between you and me, where I ask you questions regarding a topic which we will have gone over before the interview. At the end of the interview I will ask you to sign a Consent and Release Form which simply allows the Whitman Mission to use the tape to further their research in the area. The taped interview will then be transcribed and catalogued for future use, and we will ask that you sign the Gift Deed Agreement Form, which simply allows the Mission to maintain property of the interview.

I would like to set up a time to talk with you if that is agreeable to you. This meeting will not be taped, but will rather be a time for us to get acquainted. I will try to phone you or you may phone me at (509)- - . I am very excited to meet and talk with you at your convenience.

 

Sincerely, Sincerely,

 

Mike Dedman (name)

Program Manager (Volunteer Interviewer)

 

 

THANK YOU LETTER TEMPLATE

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Date

(name and address)

 

Dear (name),

I would like to sincerely thank you for the time you took out of your schedule last week to grant me an interview concerning the history of the Whitman Mission. The information you gave me was extremely helpful and I am sure it will be useful in future research on the topic.

I have enclosed a copy of the taped interview for your own personal collection and I am sure whom ever you chose to share it with will find it as interesting as I did.

I have enclosed the Gift Deed Agreement Form that I talked to you about and I would sincerely appreciate it if you could complete it and mail it back to me as soon as possible. I have enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your use.

Thank you again for all of your help.

Sincerely, Sincerely,

 

 

Mike Dedman (name)

Project Manager Project Volunteer

Enclosures

1) Taped Interview

2) Gift Deed Agreement Form

 

 

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

CONSENT FORM FOR ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWS

 

WE, ______________________________, interviewee, and ___________________________, interviewer, give our consent to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site to use all or any part of our interview and supplementary materials in any format for scholarly, educational or community awareness purposes. It is understood that the literary rights, including copyright, pass to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. This does not preclude any use that we, the signatories of this agreement, may make of the recorded interviews or the information contained in them.

We further understand that copies and transcripts of the interview will be kept and maintained by the Whitman Mission National Historic Site as part of its Oral History Collection, to be available for public viewing, and that portions of our interview may be used in documentaries, websites and other published works.

We release the National Parks Service and the Whitman Mission National Historic site from all claims arising out of, or in connection with the use of our observations, memories, and experiences. We understand that the Whitman Mission National Historic Site is required to give credit to narrator, interviewer, and sponsoring organizations when quoting or citing the contents of this interview.

The purpose of this interview is to document the interviewee's experiences living in Walla Walla and connection to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Our participation in this project is entirely voluntary.

 

 

Interviewee PLEASE PRINT Interviewer

Name ________________________________ 1) ______________________________

Address_______________________________ 2) _____________________________

_______________________________ ________________________________

Phone________________________________ 3) ______________________________

E-mail ________________________________ 4) ______________________________

Signed ______________________________ 5) ______________________________

Date ________________________________ 6) ________________________

 

 

Gift Deed Agreement

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

I, ___________________________, of _______________________ own and desire to give to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site the following described property which was transferred to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site on __________, 20__, and which consists of _____ hours of tape time contained on ____ cassette tape(s).

 

 

 

Description of Property:

 

Recording tape/electronic media resulting from _____oral history interview sessions conducted on __________, 20__ at ____________am/pm as part of the oral history program for the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

Additional Description:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Property Rights: Now therefore I convey and transfer to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site the above audio cassette recording(s) and all materials related to said recordings.

Copy Rights: I hereby grant to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site copyright to all materials related to the audio cassette recording(s) listed above.

Duplication: All duplication will be at the discretion of the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. All duplicate copies will be subject to the identical terms promulgated in this agreement.

Access: All access to the above mentioned audio cassette recording(s) and all related materials shall be available for research according to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site policy.

Access Restrictions: The following are exceptions to access and use._________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Donor (respondent) PLEASE PRINT Interviewer

Name ________________________________ 1) ______________________________

Address_______________________________ 2) _____________________________

_______________________________ ________________________________

Phone________________________________ 3) ______________________________

E-mail ________________________________ 4) ______________________________

Signed ______________________________ 5) ______________________________

Date ________________________________ 6) ______________________________

 

Witness

Name ________________________________

Address ______________________________
______________________________

Signed _______________________________

Date _________________________________

 

 

 

LOAN FORM

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Lender

 

Name:

 


Street Address:

 


City: State:

 


Zip: Telephone:

 

 

Complete Description of all Items on Loan (Include Number and Condition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name:

 


Street Address:

 


City: State:

 


Zip: Telephone:

 

Signature of the Lender ___________________________ Date ___________

Signature of Borrower ____________________________ Date ___________

 

Date of Loan ____________

 

This loan agreement signifies that items listed are loaned to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site Oral History Project, for which borrower acts as agent. These articles may be photocopied, photographed, or duplicated by the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. The borrower will make every effort to return these materials to the lender by (state date of return).

Date of Return___________

 

Signature of the Lender ___________________________ Date ___________


EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

TAPE RECORDER: _______________________________________________

MICROPHONE/S: _________________________________________________

BATTERIES: _____________________________________________________

EXTENSION CORD: _______________________________________________

TWO-PRONG, THREE PRONG ADAPTER: ____________________________

TWO 60-MINUTE TAPES: __________________________________________

CAMERA: ________________________________________________________

FILM: ____________________________________________________________

LENS AND FLASH: ________________________________________________

ANY XEROXES, PHOTOS, OR OTHER “REMINDERS: __________________ __________________________________________________________________

NOTES AND LIST OF QUESTIONS: __________________________________

NOTEPAD AND PENCIL: ___________________________________________

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS:

A) Consent and Release Form

B) Loan Form (if Appropriate)

 

 

 

CHECKLIST FOR INTERVIEW

 

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW-

______ At least two 60-minute tapes, (bring twice as many as you think you will need)

 

______ Extra Batteries and Charger for any equipment that may need it

 

______ Tape introduction on Tape #1, side A to check for Volume

 

______ Go over Equipment Checklist to be sure you have all necessary equipment

 

______ Turn off all cell phones and pagers before beginning interview

 

______ Make sure you have all notes, props, and questions close at hand

 

DURING THE INTERVIEW-

 

______ Place tape-recorder on a sturdy surface with a cushion between it and the surface to prevent pickup of vibrations

 

______ Be sure microphone is located at a location where both yourself and the interviewee can be heard

 

______ Make sure tape is running before beginning interview

 

______ Pay attention to how close you are to the end of the tape

 

______ Do not draw attention to equipment (may make subject nervous)

 

______ Do not make unnecessary movements which might be picked up by the tape recorder and disturb the interviewee

 

AFTER THE INTERVIEW-

 

______ Thank your interviewee for taking time to talk with you

 

______ Have them sign the Consent and Release Form

 

______ Remove the tabs on the back of the cassette to prevent erasure.

 

______ Put away equipment in a cool dry place

 

______ Make arrangement with interviewee if interview will continue at a later date or if you need to contact them for any reason such as to sign the Gift Deed Agreement Form

INTERVIEW SUMMARY-TAPE INDEX TEMPLATE

 

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Name:

Date of interview:

Location:

Interviewer:

Tape No:

 

Tape Minute Manuscript Page Summary of Contents
     
     
     

 

 

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

 

 

Things to Remember When Conducting an Interview

 

Introduction

The best method for getting the feel of an area is through the use of interviews. The residents of an area will be better able to explain what an area meant to them and the community than any textbook. Factual information is important but it can never tell you more about an area than the actual residents.

Arranging the Interview

Selecting and Contacting an Interviewee - The most important part of the interview is selecting the respondent. No matter what your topic, the importance of finding a person that can provide you with the sort of information necessary for your work is crucial. For the Whitman Mission it is best to look for people who have been part of the Walla Walla community since the park was established as a national historic site, or have been actively involved in the mission in the past. Good people to ask for possible interviewees would be people working for the Whitman Mission, employees or volunteers at the Fort Walla Walla Museum , or any other historical society in the Walla Walla area. While it is important to find a person who is a good storyteller, what is more important is their background in the subject.

Once you have selected your interviewee the next step is to contact them. Since you want to appear professional at all times the best method for contacting your potential interviewee is by mail. Once you have sent an introductory letter you should make a follow-up call and answer any questions he/she may have concerning the interview and arrange a non-taped meeting time to get acquainted and also to determine if he/she has information relevant to your topic. If you believe he/she will make a good interview subject than set up a time for a taped interview.

Preparation for an Interview

Choose a setting with few distractions and as little background noise as possibl e. The more distractions you have during an interview the more confused your interviewee may become. The most important part of an interview is the long unobstructed narratives; these can often assure that the interviewer is not leading the interviewee to respond in a particular way but rather in a way that matches their own thoughts and feelings. A tape recorder can pick up a lot of noise and you do not want your interviewee to be drowned out by the sound of traffic.

Make your interviewee feel comfortable. Be sure to explain to your interviewee exactly what will be going on during the interview. Answer any questions they may have concerning the interview or what it will be used for. Indicate how long the interview usually takes.

Bring a checklist for all the equipment you may need and be sure it all works ahead of time. There is nothing worse than completing an hour long interview and realizing your batteries were low, or you did not use the equipment properly and nothing was recorded. Always practice a mock interview on the equipment you are using to be sure you know how to use it. Important considerations include: distance of recorder from you and interviewee, volume, extra cassette tape, extension cords with adapters and microphones.

Remember to ask them to sign any necessary forms . In the case of the Consent and Release Form, it is often better to have them sign this form at the end of the interview because they will have a better idea about what is on it and how comfortable they feel signing it. However you do not want to loose hours of work in the case that they do not want to sign the form. To keep this from becoming an issue it is best to inform the interviewee about the form beforehand so it does not come as a shock.

Conducting the Interview

Start with questions about the present . It is always easier for a person to remember what is currently going on in their life than what happened 60-70-years-ago, so start with easy questions and move on to the hard ones.

Be aware of the wording of all your questions. Your questions should never be leading questions, while you want to direct the interview you do not want to direct his/her response. Make all your questions understandable. If your question confuses him/her they may respond “incorrectly,” or in a manner they do not agree with. This also applies to making sure your questions are neutral. You want the respondent to answer as truthfully as they can without any judgments clouding their response.

Always be aware of the comfort level of your interviewee. You do not want to make your interviewee uncomfortable during the interview; you will get the best responses when they are not guarding their every word. You do not want them to be ready to bolt at any moment.

Do not argue with or correct the interviewee. He/she may not always be historically accurate but that is not why we conduct oral histories. The important part is the feelings and impressions they have regarding the topic.

After the Interview

Always be sure to thank the interviewee. This person took time out of their schedule to help you and you should be thankful for their effort.

Remember to have them sign the Consent and Release Form. You do not want your interviewee leaving without having signed that form

Check and make sure tape recorder was working throughout interview. You do not want your interviewee to leave only to find out the equipment was not working .

Send the interviewee a thank you letter with the Gift Deed Agreement Form. After you have transcribed and catalogued the interview it is important to have your interviewee sign the Gift Deed Agreement Form for the Mission records. You can send this with the follow-up letter and any other materials related to the interview. It is a good idea to send a copy of the tape so that they may share it with family or keep it as a memento.

 

National Park Service

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Oral History Project

 

Bibliography

 

1) Oral History Workshops, Seattle Archdiocesan Archives, handouts. April/May 1993

2) Oral History Association homepage. October 9, 2004.

3) H-OralHist homepage. October 9, 2004.

4) Oral History Society. October 13, 2004.

4) General Guidelines for Conduction Interviews. November 8, 2004.

5) The Library of Congress, Learning Page. November 8, 2004.

6) Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Oral History Workshop on the Web. November 18, 2004.

7) Weideman, Christine, The Society of American Archivists. “A Guide to Deeds of Gift,” November 8, 2004. Copyright 1998.