Tools for Oral History


Studs Terkel, the legendary oral historian, recently bequeathed another gift of data to us.  Terkel recorded hours upon hours of interviews in order to provide the material for his 1974 bestseller  Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do.  The audio itself had been stored and forgotten for about 40 years.  While transcripts can be fascinating to read, there’s nothing quite like hearing people describe their own lives in their own words and with their own voices.


Recording equipment was bulky and expensive in Terkel’s day, and out of the reach of most people.  And the storage format - reels of magnetic tape - was fragile and decidedly non-portable.  But, technology marches on - just about any citizen of a developed nation has the means to record, store, and access audio.  Indeed, a modern First Worlder can do all these with audio than a person could do with text in the 1970s.    

But, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Here at LifeTold, we want to equip people with the tools to easily record, securely store, and access video interviews.  We’re looking to develop a platform where people with production backgrounds can create templates that let anyone with a camera make a great-looking video, where skilled interviewers can share sets of questions that will get your elderly relatives talking about fascinating aspects of their lives that you never would have thought to ask them about, where anyone and everyone can create their own private video archive of their family’s histories.