Oral History is the study of past people, places, lifeways, and events as remembered by those who actually experienced them. Creating vivid pictures of the past, oral history supplements historical, archaeological, and archival research by filling-in holes, providing fresh perspectives, and illuminating the lives of ordinary people. Oral history is a valued tool for researching the history of a location, occupation, or people about whom little was written. Local residents and property owners accumulate intricate knowledge of an area over time. These informants can provide personalized details to a historic context and steer researchers towards important resources.
Researchers at New South Associates have conducted oral history studies in a variety of contexts including: history workshops for the Savannah River Site, where former plant employees and others were invited to bring documents and photographs to be scanned and to provide taped oral histories about their experiences with the site; community interviews on the history of tenancy in southwest Georgia, where tenant farm owners, former tenants, and the children of tenancy all discussed their lives and views on tenancy; and interviews on the history of African-American neighborhoods in the Village Creek section of Birmingham. In each of these instances, oral history has recovered information and perspectives that could not have been obtained from the written past.
Oral history studies are conducted in accordance with the standards of the Oral History Association. Signed permissions are obtained for all interviews, and all are digitally recorded. Transcriptions are prepared for inclusion as report appendices. Oral history interviews are designed to address the questions researchers have about a location or event, while also allowing the informants the latitude to expound upon subjects of their personal experience and connection. These expositions often yield unexpected discoveries about the past.