“I Just Want to Click on It to Listen”: Oral History Archives, Orality, and Usability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In 1978, Paul Thompson stated that “the tape recorder not only allows history to be taken down in spoken words but also presented through them … The words may be idiosyncratically phrased, but all the more expressive for that. They breathe life into history.”1 Like many others, I was drawn to oral history by the power, emotion, and the content conveyed in the recorded voice, the expression of first hand memories tangled up in the engagement of an interview, culminating as recorded narrative performance. Folklorist Kenneth S. Goldstein began the influential book A Guide for Field Workers in Folklore with the reminder, “The basis of any scholarly discipline is the materials with which it deals. Without such materials there can be no subject for scholarship.”2 The professional field of oral history consists of scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds. What consistently unifies this group is the “material with which it deals”: the recorded voice, the interview. We have staunchly defended oral history’s relevance and reliability through the decades, yet, with few exceptions, the orality/aurality that defined our material was consistently stripped away in the textual act of archival use and scholarly communication.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave Studies in Oral History
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Oral History
ISSN (Print)2731-5673
ISSN (Electronic)2731-5681

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Douglas A. Boyd and Mary A. Larson.


  • Archival Setting
  • Digital Humanity
  • Oral History
  • Recorded Voice
  • Video Interview

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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