Pennsylvania's Past from a Unique Perspective: Oral History


An oral history project as part of a course on the history of Pennsylvania offers students an opportunity to connect to the history of their communities, make tangible the topics that we study in class, and provide documentation of a person, place, event, or community that might otherwise be lost. To be successful, students need to learn how to research their topic, work with recording equipment, conduct a pre-interview, structure an interview, ask open and closed questions, and transcribe an interview. While a challenging and time-consuming assignment, the oral history project is often the aspect of the course that students find most rewarding, as it offers them an opportunity to record a family member’s story, to learn about an aspect of local history, or to make a contribution to the history of a neighborhood or organization. Reviewing my students’ work is also one of my favorite aspects of the course; it gives me added insight into the lives of the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the recent history of the state. Supplemental resources are posted on the journals’ web pages.