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Oral History


  1. Minimize background noise.  This may mean: closing windows, locating the interview away from heaters or air conditioners, moving away from HVAC vents, and possibly moving away from some types of fluorescent lights.
  2. Do a 30-second test of your recording.  Is the recording clear?  Can you hear both the interviewer and interviewee?  Is there background noise? (It is best to listen to the playback with headphones when assessing quality.)
  3. Pro tip: record 10 seconds of silence to discover any ambient noise issues.
  4. Whenever possible, set your device down approximately 6-12 inches from each party. Ensure that your microphone is placed optimally between each person.
  5. Leave 5 seconds of silence before you begin recording and once you stop, ensuring that your words – and those of your interviewee – are captured.


Ideally, oral history recordings are made using quality equipment meant for capturing multiple speaking voices. However, acceptable recordings can be made using simple and/or easily-obtained devices:

Zoom H1 recorders can be signed out of Media Resources.

You can use your smartphone, too, but adding a microphone will greatly improve sound quality. Microphones are also available from Media Resources.

Another option, if you're going to record on campus, is to arrange a session in the recording studio in the basement of Chicago Hall.

Questions about borrowing equipment or using the studio can be directed to Baynard Bailey (babailey) or another member of the Academic Computing team (