The Grand Trunk Road - Recording Oral History Interviews

Preparing to Record

· Before an interview, perform an equipment check in good time to ensure everything is working properly.


· When conducting back-to-back interviews, ensure you are carrying spare supplies - batteries, audio tapes, mini discs, memory card. There may not be time between interviews to recharge equipment. Also, the interview may last longer than you envisaged, or you may be given an unexpected lead that you decide to follow up immediately.


· If in doubt, double check that the equipment is recording near the start of the interview.


· Ensure that mobile phones (yours and the interviewees) are switched off altogether and not left on silent mode. Even if the phone rings on silent mode, it will cause interference on the audio recording. Also discourage the interviewee from accepting phone call since this can disrupt the flow of conversation.


· If the quality of the recording is important, you should take a minute to ‘listen’ for any background noise such as traffic, machinery, TV in the background, people chatting, a pet, washing machine. You may not even notice these sounds or consider them as ‘noise’ but you are likely to notice them when the recording is played back. Ensure the microphone wire (if you use one) does not rub against the interviewee’s clothing since this will be picked up on the recording as a rustling noise. Also be aware at the start of the interview for ‘fidgeting’ noises. For example, some nervous interviewees unconsciously tap the furniture with their fingers or feet. Also listen for echo in the room, and if there is one, consider moving to a different room.


· There may be times when you want to record the background noise or ‘actuality’. For instance, the sounds of animals, flowing river, or machinery in a factory can help to authenticate an experience.


· If conducting several interviews, ensure that soft and loud voices are consistent so that sound levels do not fluctuate.


· Keep the edit stage in mind by remembering that the more you record, the more you have to edit!

Document icon Learning article provided by: Bradford Industrial Museum | 
Photo © Tim Smith

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