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How to Preserve an Oral Heirloom


What Is an Oral Heirloom?

An oral heirloom is an interview captured by digital (later, we'll explain why) audio or video equipment. The interview itself can be formal -- accounts of historically significant events prompted by well-thought-out questions -- or imprecise, such as simply reminiscing about past times.

Keep in mind that these tales aren't meant for mass consumption; it should be a one-on-one conversation. So public speeches are out -- and forget filming political debates for preservation. Oral heirlooms aren't a secret affair, either. No wire-tapping or personal diaries.

Instead, make it a dialogue between an interviewer and a subject that is recorded. This is an important distinction between an oral heirloom and one that occurs, say, when you turn your video camera into a Blair Witch-style documentary. These interviews are deliberate and planned; they can be transcribed, summarized and archived. This means the interview lives on; it can be researched, used for publication or even become part of a museum exhibition.


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