UO Libraries & OSU Libraries Team Up to Teach an Oral History Workshop

Whether you’re an anthropology student, a journalist, or a family member seeking to capture a relative’s legacy, the new workshop and resources available in “Doing Oral History on a Shoestring” may be invaluable for you. 

Chris Petersen (left) and Kate Thornhill (right)
UO Librarian Kate Thornhill and OSU Archivist Chris Petersen collaborated to create a free oral history workshop.

The how-to details are openly available to anyone interested in conducting an oral history thanks to the UO Libraries Public Scholarship Librarian Kate Thornhill and Oregon State University Libraries and Press Archivist for Oral History and Digital Projects Chris Petersen. This workshop and its related resources, templates, and instructions equip participants with practical skills for developing low-cost oral history projects within their cultural organizations and beyond.

Originally created for the Oregon Heritage Summit conference in April, the “Doing Oral History on a Shoestring” workshop “promises to ready you with actionable knowledge and skills to navigate the oral history process whether you're embarking on a new endeavor or seeking to enhance existing projects,” shared Thornhill.

This workshop introduced learners to how to do oral histories with emphases on:

  1. Best practices for every stage of the oral history life cycle including interviewing, recording, preservation, and online dissemination
  2. Interviewing methods and ethics, archival strategies essential for collecting and safeguarding oral narratives, and providing access to an oral history collection
  3. Guidance on free or low-cost tools to use in all phases of a project

Thornhill and Petersen connected with cultural workers from the following organizations who shared that the workshop was extremely helpful to their work developing community-based oral history projects:

  • City of Hillsboro
  • City of North Bend
  • Clackamas County Historical Society
  • Cottage Grove Historic Preservation Commission
  • Friends of Historic Forest Grove
  • Gresham Historical Society
  • Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center
  • Keizer Heritage Museum
  • Multnomah County Library
  • Oregon Black Pioneers
  • Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries
  • Oregon Department of Forestry's Tillamook Forest Center
  • Oregon Film + Oregon Made Creative Foundation
  • Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
  • Oregon State Parks
  • Southern Oregon Historical Society
  • Yamhill County Historical Society

The three-hour workshop went “really well,” according to Petersen. “We capped attendance at 25 and the session filled up quickly. Folks came to us with a wide range of scenarios that they were working through, and we generated some great discussion as a result. It definitely felt like there was a strong demand for this training, so I’m super thankful to Kate [Thornhill] for suggesting that we do it.”

After the workshop, the State of Oregon's Oregon Heritage department invited Thornhill and Petersen to teach their workshop several more times across the state as part of Oregon Heritage's FY25 workshop offerings. Petersen’s department, the OSU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives Research Center, (known as SCARC) also plans to use it for their own consultation and instruction connected to oral history programming. Likewise, UO Libraries will continue to use it for public scholarship consultation and teaching.

Learn more about Doing Oral History on a Shoestring here. You’ll find templates, interview questions, release forms, and more resources to successfully conduct an oral history project.

—By Kate Conley, communications specialist, UO Libraries