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Oral Histories of Northern BC

This outlines the oral history collections at the Northern BC Archives.

Conducting Oral Histories

The Northern BC Archives does not loan out, provide access to, or permit the use of its oral history recording equipment. Here are our recommendations for conducting oral history interviews:

Digital Recordings

We recommend using a digital recorder. These come in many different forms—such as a dedicated piece of recording technology or a program installed on your computer, phone, or tablet with a microphone. No matter what type of digital recorder you use, it should ideally have:

  • a digital counter
  • sufficient memory storage
  • an external power cable
  • an external microphone (if possible)
  • the capability to record in WAV file format. This file format is the current recommended format for audio preservation. Save this file as your master file and create an mp3 as your access file; taking care to store both files on your PC’s hard drive AND an alternative location such as an external hard drive.

Establishing Interview Agreements

Before you can begin your interview you need to ensure that you have prepared Interview Release Forms (See files below for sample form). Without this completed and signed document, the interview fall under the protection and restrictions of the Personal Information Protection Act and Federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act meaning these recordings will not become publicly accessible until 20 years after that person’s death, or after this personal recording has been in existence for 100 years. Therefore, it is imperative that your interview release forms are signed and maintained as a critical documentary component of your interview process. During your pre-interview consultation, introduce your Interview Release Form to your interview subject along with the types of questions you will be asking of them. Be sure they understand the meaning of the form, what it means for them to give their consent, and the intent of your interview. Prior to the start of the actual interview, you need to have this form signed; however, leave the restrictions box blank until the end of the interview. At the conclusion of your interview, it is important to give your interviewee the opportunity to amend their consent. Sometimes information comes out during the course of an interview that the interviewee might regret, or which they would prefer to have anonymized, or edited out altogether. By leaving the restrictions box blank until the conclusion of the interview, you give your subject the opportunity to add any restrictions they feel are necessary based upon the outcome of the interview. Another interview tip which will assist you in your documentation and transcription is to take time at the start of your interview to introduce yourself and your interviewee, as well as, the location and date of your interview. It is also a good idea to note whether the release form has been signed. For example: “I’m here with Ms. Smith. My name is John Martin. We’re in Burns Lake, BC in the home of Ms. Smith. It is the 30th of September, 2010. The consent form has been signed.” It is a good idea to ensure your interview subject receives copies of whatever is produced during the course of the interview: this includes copies of the signed Interview Release Form, and whenever possible, a copy of the transcript or tape summary and the actual recording. As well, proper interview etiquette recommends that as soon as possible after the interview you should write a formal letter of thanks to the interviewee.

Privacy Legislation

Privacy legislation has an impact on how oral histories can be used over time once they are deposited in the archives. The use and disclosure of personal information by all organizations in BC is now subject to the regulations outlined by the Personal Information Protection Act [PIPA], enacted in 2003. Exemptions to this Act allow Archives, as public bodies, to disclose personal information for “archival or historical purposes” under specific circumstances.

These circumstances are outlined in PIPA under Section 22, entitled “Disclosure for archival or historical purposes” which states: “an organization may disclose, without the consent of the individual, personal information for archival or historical purposes if:

  1. a reasonable person would not consider the personal information to be too sensitive to the individual to be disclosed at the proposed time,
  2. the disclosure is for historical research and is in accordance with section 21, [of the Act] 
  3. the information is about someone who has been dead for 20 or more years, or 
  4. the information is in a record that has been in existence for 100 or more years

Alternatively, Archives can also set up research agreements allowing researchers access to sensitive or confidential information. Such agreements require the researchers to demonstrate their legitimate academic research objectives and to remove all personal identifiers from their research.