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University Libraries - Office of Oral History

Office of Oral History



Committed to telling the stories of South Carolinians in their own voices through oral history, the Office of Oral History records recollections of daily lives, communities, families, and notable events that shaped South Carolina and continue to do so, and to make those stories available to a wide audience. Current focus areas: civil rights and activism, African American history, and donors of personal and family papers and ephemera.


The information sought in oral history work is best obtained by supporting interviewees in the telling of their stories. Oral histories should not be dry recitations of facts, but engaging remembrances of the interviewee's experiences and insights. Questions should be framed to encourage, not dampen, the interviewee in his/her recollections. It is best to cast oneself as the student, eager to learn what the interviewee wishes to impart, not the investigative reporter, trying to pin down the facts. The latter approach almost certainly guarantees the equivalent of a lifeless butterfly collection. The former will reveal more than you anticipated and, often, more than the interviewee intended or realized was available in his/her memory.

Interviewing Tips

Silence as a Tool 
Use silence as a tool. If the interviewee pauses, don't jump in immediately with another question. The interviewee may be connecting what they've just said to some other thought that is related and important. 

Click here for other interviewing tips.