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Oral History: Faculty Activities

This collaborative guide features the oral history resources created by students, faculty and the Philadelphia community.

Intellectual Justification for Faculty Activities


For decades, oral history has consistently proven its unique value to recovering historical knowledge and documenting history from the "bottom-up."  These pedagogical activities push the field in a new direction, allowing practitioners and non-practitioners alike to recognize the genre’s untapped potential to create powerful teaching tools well suited to be implemented in a classroom setting.  Students who participate in creating and disseminating oral histories gain concrete skills that they can use inside and outside the classroom such as researching, transcription, and interviewing.  Soft skills, such as networking with other classmates and people in the community, are also developed.  Please feel free to adapt the following activities into your own discipline and classroom.  If you wish to contribute your own activities for others to us, contact Nicholas Trajano Molnar at


In-Class Training Activity


Activity using your phone's recorder.

  • Take 10 minutes to come up with interview questions.
  • With a partner, conduct a brief oral history interview with them for 15 minutes about where they grew up and what brought them to CCP.
  • After the first person is done, the second person should be interviewed.
  • Write a short summary of each other's interview. Be ready to share.


Oral History Interview Assignment

Conduct an oral history interview with someone over the age of 55 about their life. The person must consent to being interviewed and sharing their story using your smartphone. This should be the first thing you DO in the interview! The interview questions you create should be related to the different topics you will encounter this semester that would be relevant to this person's life. At least some of the questions you ask should be about the person's experience living and working in Philadelphia when they were younger. These questions will provide you with important information about the person's background which will be helpful in understanding their point of view.

The minimum length of the interview is 15 minutes long. This is the minimum amount of the time for you to ask questions, receive responses, and ask follow up questions. Interviews below this length will result in a grade deduction assessed.


To conduct the oral history interview:

1) Use your phone's native recorder to create an audio file. The interview is audio only. Make sure to point the microphone at the person so you record their voice. There should not be ambient noise, as it will interfere with the interview.


2) Upload it online through one of these services. This is so I can listen to it. If one service does not work for you, use one of the others:

Option A: StoryCorps. Upload the audio file you created to the website through the online interface on your desktop computer. You will have to create a personal account on the website to do this. Option B: SoundCloud. Upload the audio file you created to the SoundCloud website through the online interface on your desktop computer. You will have to create a personal account on the website to do this. Option C: Google Drive. Upload the audio file you created to your personal Google Drive through the online interface on your desktop computer. You will have to create a personal account on the website to do this. If you already have a gmail account, you will already have a Google account.


3) Add a title to the oral history that reflects the topics that were discussed and who you discussed them with. It should only be a few words and all words should be correctly spelled. If you have permission from the interviewee, you can post their image. If they would prefer their image not be used, take an image of a piece of paper that says "Philly Stories."


4) Whatever service you use, make sure to add keywords to the interview for people who may be interested in reading about the Philadelphia area. Some examples are, "Philadelphia," "Philly Stories," "CCP," and "Student Oral Histories." Feel free to add your own as appropriate!


5) Send me the public link (also known as the website URL) to your interview so I can listen to it. Please remember, if you send me to the link from your personal profile, I won't be able to view it because I won't be logged into your account. To make sure it works, send it to a friend to see if they can access it. If they can, then I will be able to as well. If it doesn't, try again! In the worst case scenario, you can send me the audio file directly for me to listen to.

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