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Conducting Virtual Oral History Interviews in Light of the Covid-19 Pandemic

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 The following is an update to the Veterans History Project’s (VHP) Coronavirus COVID-19 Impact Response.

Though we understand it may be more challenging to do during the pandemic, the Veterans History Project  still prefers that you conduct in-person interviews, when it is safe to do so.

If you are unable to travel to be with, or otherwise safely conduct an in-person interview with your veteran, we highly recommend you ask someone else to conduct the interview for you. Provide that person with the VHP how-to field kit and a link to the instructional video from our website, then ask them to ship the unedited recording and required documents to you. Afterward, check to make sure the forms are complete and VHP standards have been met, then ship everything to VHP via commercial carrier.

According to surveys of recent and ongoing discussions among professionals and around oral history best practices, remote technology can complicate interview outcomes.  For example, distance and the technology tend to impact the rapport that would normally be created during an in-person conversation. Remote interviews can present technological challenges such as sound and video quality, variances in internet speeds/capabilities on both sides of the conversation, virtual platform type and possible platform-imposed time restrictions. There are also some concerns regarding privacy and ownership, as you must download virtual interviews from a service provider before submitting them to VHP. To that end, VHP recommends that you use virtual platforms only as a last resort.

We will accept all interviews that meet VHP’s requirements, including those conducted remotely; however, be advised that technical issues and limitations may negatively impact both the veteran’s interview experience as well as the quality of the recording. Collaborate with your veteran in advance to reach an agreement on which approach to take.

Please remember all other VHP requirements remain in place, including standards for acceptable formats. Keep in mind that many remote apps only support MP3 recordings. You may convert a video recording into an audio file prior to submission if you or the veteran do not have a camera on your device

If you determine that you have no other option than to conduct a remote interview, please do the following first:

  1. Consider your bandwidth:
    • audio recordings typically use 1GB per hour
    • video recordings typically use 10GB to 30GB per hour depending on your device’s settings
  2. Explore these resources, including a webinar on conducting remote interviews our colleagues at the Oral History Association and the Institute for Oral History have made available for free,
  3. Read this blog post from our colleagues at the American Folklife Center.

Library of Congress buildings remain closed to the public until further notice. As communities across the country roll out different phases of activities,  please note that all incoming mail, including commercial delivery packages sent to the Veterans History Project, will continue to be routed through the Library of Congress off-site facility, and will be processed in the order received when on-site accessioning activities are resumed. There is no expedited service, and no special handling offered at this time. Thank you for your continued patience and understanding. If you have questions or need more information, email [email protected].

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