Today I met with Dr. Manning to discuss my work on the NOLA project. Dr. Manning asked me what I thought after I confessed that I had in fact listened to many of the recordings and read through some of the transcripts. It was interesting as well as fascinating seeing how the interviewers on this project conducted their work. The questions that were asked as well as how they made the interviewees feel as comfortable as possible. I feel that an oral history is difficult because even though it is a firsthand account of what has been happening and what the volunteers have witnessed I believe the interviewees may still hold back.
While the answers may be honest, I still wondered if the interviewer was getting a completely honest answer or were there parts of the volunteers’ experiences that they were not yet ready to talk about. I do believe that oral histories are relevant just as any other form of accepted historical method is and should be pursued. Regardless of the method, the facts given by one volunteer may be significantly different than the facts given by another volunteer. I think that the background of the volunteer is just as important as the work they are doing because it is in their background and beliefs that you will discover how they perceive certain situations and process them. What may seem severe treatment by one volunteer may be perceived by a different volunteer as a mere inconvenience.
I did learn a quite a bit this semester about the intricacies of oral histories and what they entail. The work is hard and its tedious and even though I kind of did agree with Dr. Manning as far as it being akin to a police interrogation, I also believe it’s how you ask the questions that may lead you to the truth. Proceed carefully is what I determined to be one way to handle oral histories and as Dr. Manning pointed out, there has to be a common thread among all the interviews that would make for a compelling argument because after all is said and done it is quite possible that my truth is very different from everyone else’s.