Community Oral History Toolkit

Community Oral History Toolkit

by Nancy MacKay, Mary Kay Quinlan, Barbara W Sommer

This five-volume set is the definitive guide to all aspects of conducting successful community oral history projects that conform to best practices in the field. What are the fundamental principles that make one oral history project fly and another falter? Community Oral History Toolkit examines theoretical foundations for oral history practice and offers

…  See more details below


This five-volume set is the definitive guide to all aspects of conducting successful community oral history projects that conform to best practices in the field. What are the fundamental principles that make one oral history project fly and another falter? Community Oral History Toolkit examines theoretical foundations for oral history practice and offers applicable tools and guidelines that you can mold to your project’s specific needs. The wealth of existing literature on oral history methodology is designed for academic research; the Toolkit, however, is specifically geared toward community groups unaffiliated with large institutions such as universities. Volumes include an introduction to community oral history, planning and managing community oral history projects, interviewing subjects, and processing the interviews. Volumes in the set are also available separately.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The Toolkit will be an invaluable resource for a wide variety of oral history projects—in schools, libraries, religious institutions, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Families who are using interviews to reconstruct their histories can also use this comprehensive, step-by-step guide.  The authors provide the big picture with great background information but also pay attention to details about planning, interview techniques, and archiving. The Toolkit is easy to read and to use. It confirms the significant role that oral history plays as historical evidence.”

—Brent D. Glass, Ph.D., Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

“At last! A straightforward, easy-to-read guide for community organizations. The in-depth treatment covers critical topics and issues often overlooked by community organizations anxious to begin interviewing. I love the emphasis and help with planning a project.”

—Tom Ikeda, Founding Executive Director, Densho

“The Community Oral History Toolkit is a comprehensive resource offering guidance for designing successful, community-driven oral history projects.  MacKay, Quinlan, and Sommer draw on a wide range of expertise to provide the reader useful information on the oral history process. If you are new to oral history, this will be a great place to start.”

—Douglas A. Boyd, Director, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

“While Mackay, Quinlan and Sommer come from various paths in the oral history process, this collaborative work continues their commitment to inform the budding and sophisticated oral historian. It is especially useful to community-based projects often dependent on volunteers and community scholars planning and implementing a project or the individual working on their own. It further provides a terrific teaching tool [and is] destined to become the preferred reference source on oral history practice for schools, libraries, museums, and archives.”

—Rose T. Díaz, Ph.D., Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (Albuquerque, NM), Research Historian and Former President of the Oral History Association and the Southwest Oral History Association

“Imagine a toolbox that offers you well-designed equipment, easy-to-follow instructions for how to use those tools, and useful explanations of the “why” behind the “how.” Here three friendly oral history experts provide practical steps community groups can take to move beyond the initial oral history impulse and on down the road to success. Best practices are illustrated with specific project examples that showcase why such practices are “best.” Realistic timetables, FAQs, sample documents, equipment specs and more in the toolkit will help communities ignited by the spark of preserving human stories develop a smooth-running mechanism for their journeys of self-discovery.”

—Lynne Ireland, Deputy Director, Nebraska State Historical Society

“This dream team of community oral historians has done an excellent job compiling this valuable guide and resource.  The material is accessible and usable for all shades of the disparate community groups that work with oral history.  The toolkit provides handy practical tips for planning, fieldwork, and sharing oral history while it encourages practitioners to attend to higher theoretical questions of approach, authority, and audience.  Community oral history projects that incorporate the advice found within these volumes will markedly enhance the quality and meaning of their efforts.”

—Stephen Sloan, Director, Institute for Oral History, Baylor University

“The Community Oral History Toolkit is a comprehensive introduction to the field.  In any research focus, one could fill bookshelves with volumes on the subject.  However, for those working, volunteering, or studying in the cultural heritage field the Toolkit provides a solid foundation on which to conduct oral history projects.  I particularly like the Toolkit’s staged or sequential approach.  As someone who has written my share of institutional review board proposals for interviews and gone on to conduct that research, I intend to use the Toolkit as the foundation for future projects.”

—Robert P. Connolly, Director, C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

“The first volume provides a good foundation for understanding community oral history projects and includes a definition of the discipline and a list of best practices for conducting such projects. MacKay (San Jose State Univ.), Quinlan (Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln), and Sommer (independent scholar) also provide a chapter titled "Special Considerations for Community Oral History," which details the ways that a community project may differ from similar activities sponsored by academic agencies. Each chapter in the remaining volumes reemphasizes several of the best practices, showing how they are applied at various stages of the activity. The set includes several appendixes, each containing sample documents that supplement different parts of the oral history project's progression, from preliminary planning and management to conducting, transcribing, and archiving the interviews. Links are available for the blank forms listed in the appendixes, and each volume closes with a further reading section suggesting appropriate print and online resources for the focus of that particular book. Planning and conducting a community oral history project has many aspects. This five-volume set was written in an easily understandable manner that makes it accessible to beginners, experienced oral historians, and everyone in between.... Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.”

“The best indicator of a successful public history book is its usability. Just this week I found myself telling a museum director that a local historical society about to embark on a serious oral history project needs to read this series. The detailed discussions of how to begin a project, as well as the focus on the best technologies for the group, and the legal and ethical issues involved in oral histories might be especially useful for an inexperienced organization. The fact that the authors relied not only on their own extensive experience and oral history literature but also on information obtained from other groups that conducted oral history projects suggests that they thought deeply about how best practices could be applied to different kinds of organizations. Their case studies and fictitious examples provide concrete models for aspiring oral historians to follow. Their sample forms, which are also downloadable from the book's website, will be invaluable for small organizations that do not have many resources available to them. For a community organization, these volumes are extremely helpful in synthesizing the field of oral history into an accessible, readable, and comprehensible format.”
—Megan Taylor Shockley, Public Historian

“The Community Oral History Toolkit is an excellent resource for anyone considering or already implementing collections management of a community oral history project. The authors’ more than fifty years’ combined experience working with a diversity of people on community oral history projects is entirely evident in the uncomplicated dissemination and easy authority they demonstrate in this publication. The five-volume toolkit is structured into visibly accessible and straightforward segments that reflect the entire oral history process, from initial idea to collection access. Not only is this publication easy to skim with handy quick-fact boxes and highlighted abbreviated lists, it also provides in-depth explanations of the logistics of the various aspects of an oral history project….This publication is the perfect resource for state and local historical organizations, as well as public libraries and the multitude of affinity groups looking for guidance on developing an oral history project. I recommend, and use, this toolkit on a regular basis when working with community oral history groups.”
—Sarah Milligan, AASLH History News

"Information professionals would benefit greatly from reading the Community Oral History Toolkit. It is valuable for both those conducting and managing oral history projects and the repository staff who will assume ultimate control over the finished products. It is especially useful for the archives that do not have the resources to take on an oral history program. The book is also an excellent bridge for archivists who collaborate with external partners to expand the work of preserving the stories and memories of varied groups throughout the community."
—Heather Oswald, Archival Issues

Read More

Product Details

Left Coast Press
Publication date:
Community Oral History Toolkit Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 2.40(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >