The idea for this Project grew out of our awareness of the wealth of untold stories among the Slavonic Cultural Center's membership. Men and women of all ages have a treasure trove of stories and songs relating to their experiences as immigrants and children of immigrants with roots in the Former Yugoslavia. We wanted to document their lives and to share their stories with a wide audience. We've tried to use both the influence of music and experiences at the Croatian American Cultural Center as common threads in the interviews.
The participants in this project have such delightful stories to tell, songs to sing and photographs to share, that we knew right away we wanted to present their oral histories in audio and visual formats as well as the interview transcript. We believe the combination of formats presents a deeper, more interesting and more accurate profile than the transcript alone. We currently have sound clips, music and photographs on the web site, and are working to supplement the oral histories with more musical examples, longer excerpts from the recorded interview, and family photographs.
We also want to take full advantage of the Internet's ability to reach a wide audience and are excited about the possibility, for example, of relatives in Croatia hearing an interviewee's voice on the Internet.
For further information, or if you are interested in being interviewed for the Project, please contact Nancy MacKay, Project Director.
Project Design Statement
The primary objective of the Project is to document the life stories of members
of the Croatian American Cultural Center of San Francisco, and to present them on
Slavonicweb, the official website of the Center. As the Project matures,
we will consider expanding the project to include oral histories of members
of the greater Balkan dance and music community, or the Balkan American
community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We will present these life stories
making full use of the InternetÍs capabilities, in particular, presentation
through text, audio and graphic formats, and the use of hypertext
and links for connecting and organizing information. We believe the
combination of the audio interview, photographs, music, and maps
to supplement the written summary/transcript presents a deeper, more
interesting and more accurate profile of the interviewee than the
transcript alone. Because spoken words and music are special emphases
of this Project, we are especially interested in recording and producing
broadcast quality sound.
The secondary objective is to develop
a model for using the Internet in oral history that would be useful
to small projects with small budgets. We believe the Internet offers
oral historians enormous possibilities both in the use of multimedia
tools, and the use of hypertext and hyperlinks for organizing information.
In the future we hope to make use of the possibilities offered by
metadata for further organizing information. We would also like to
explore the use of interactive maps. In addition, we plan to address
the issues of informed consent, privacy, intellectual property and
archiving/storage as they apply to the Internet.
This is an ongoing project.
Since this is an Internet project, the potential audience is the whole world.
In particular, it is our hope that the site reaches researchers and relatives
of the interviewees who live around the world.
SlavonicWeb Oral History Project uses standard oral history methodology when
it applies, but because are we exploring the application of new technologies
to oral history, there are a number of uncharted areas where we are developing
methodology as we go.
We use traditional oral history interviewing techniques. Because
we will use audio segments in the presentation, high quality sound
is a high priority for this project.. This project considers the
taped interview, not the transcript, to be the primary document.
The Project attempts complete transcripts, and will keep the transcript
as an archival copy. Due to limited resources, we have incomplete
transcripts for some interviews.
c) Permission forms.
To date the Project has obtained release from interviewees to put
reviewed selections from the interview on the Internet. No other
permissions have been obtained. As the Project grows and our resources
increase, we want to obtain broader releases from interviewees.We
believe in providing informed consent, to the extent that
any of us knows the the ramifications of Internet access. Since interviewees
may not be Internet savvy, we make an extra effort to explain complexities
of the Internet.
d) Relationship to interviewee. The
wishes of the interviewee is our utmost concern, not only in stated
reality but also in spirit. In any conflict the wishes of the
interviewee will prevail. In any bibliographic citation, the interviewee
will be considered the author, and the interviewer will be the
editor or contributor. We encourage the intervieweeÍs participation
in the process as much as s/he is interested. Any material we put
on the Intenet is reviewed and approved by the interviewee; this
is in addition to the permission forms.
We attempt to make the site interesting and available to all viewers,
irrespective of technical limitations. That is, we have designed
the site to be interesting to people without a graphical user interface
or with all versions of common browsers.
Every recorded interview has an audio tape archival copy, an electronic
and print version of the raw transcript, and the final version on
the web, which is hosted on a commercial server. At the moment all
the materials reside in the home of the Project Director and are
not available for researchers.
STEP BY STEP. These procedures describe the ideal situation.
No oral history has followed them exactly.
a) Select potential interviewees.
So far this has been random. We select whomever we know, whoever
would be willing. There is a spot on the website for people interested
in participating to contact the Project Director.
b) Contact omterviewee
in person or by phone. Tell them hom or her about the
project, answer questions, ascertain the level of interest. Set
date for preliminary interview. Interviewee chooses the place for
both interviews, usually their home. Send the person the ñwelcomeî handout
and a copy of one or two finished oral histories from SlavonicWeb
(or this can be done at the preliminary interview).
c) Preliminary interview.
Purpose is to become acquiainted, describe the whole process, answer
questions, decide on topics for the recorded interview, make sure
the interviewee feels completely comfortable with the interviewers
and with the process. Identify any topics not to be discussed
during recording. Discuss the possibilities for adding photos or
music to the finished interview. Make sure the person understands
the implications of putting the interview on the Internet, and that
they have full control of the material at every stage in the process.
Describe permission form.
Recording person will identify potential recording problems such as a soft
voice, or extraneous noise in the room. Ideally the preliminary interview
should take place wherever the actual interview will be conducted. If necessary
this preliminary interview can be conducted over the phone or on the same
day as the actual interview.
d) Recorded interview.
About five days before the actual interview the interviewer sends
interviewee a list of topics to be discussed, derived from discussions
in the previous session. Target length for the interview is 70 minutes,
the length of a minidisc recorded in stereo.
Having a target duration gives the
interview a shape and keeps the it on topic and is an average personÍs
attention span. If that is not long enough the interviewer and interviewee
can mutually decide to continue the interview either at that time
or at another time
e) Transfer recording to
audiotape. Ideally, two analog (tape) copies are made
of the interview. One copy is the archival copy and wonÍt be touched,
the second copy is the working copy -- for transcription, etc.
In reality this is cumbersome, time consuming, expensive, and probably
f) Transcribe interview.
This is the most resource intensive step. It generally takes six
hours to transcribe each hour of taped interview. When resources
are available, we will have the sstape transcribed professionally.
Though there are definite advantages to having the interviewer transcribe
the interview, we feel that our time is better used other areas.
g) Review transcript by listening
to complete interview with transcript in hand. Make important changes
such as spellings of proper names or phrases important to content
which transcriber didnÍt pick up. Transcript doesnÍt need to be verbatim
that is, repeated words and phrases can be left out, but all meaningful
words must be present. Make appropriate changes to this transcript
and print it out. This will be the archival copy of the verbatim
h) Edit transcript. Ideally
the interviewer should be the editor. Editing means deleting some
text and very selectively reorganizing text, but never adding or
changing significant words. The finished product should be three
to four pages per interviewee, edited from an original transcript
of fiteen to twenty pages.
The following subjects are
of special interest to this project and should be included if they
a) the personÍs birthplace and place of origin in the Old Country, what
b) growing up in ethnic neighborhood
c) language, holidays, religious festivals, food, weddings or other points
of ethnic identity
d) importance of ethnic music in their lives, as a child, as an adult
e) role of SMBS in their lives
f) if they have children, how (or if) they transmitted ethnic identity
to them; what parts of their culture do they wish will be carried on
Details, stories, anecdotes, names
and places are what make the story rich and personal. ItÍs tricky to
preserve these details in the summary and still work within the constraints
of brevity and privacy (that is, not putting anything too personal
on the Internet) but worth it.
The final document is obviously just
a summary. Possibilities that the full transcript or full audio recording
being mounted on the Internet are not being considered by the Project
at this time, but may be in the future.
i) Interviewee to review
and approve. When I am satisfied with the final edit,
I send a copy to the interviewee for his or her review. I prefer
to copy it into HTML template so it will appear just like it will
on the SlavonicWeb and the person can view it in its final form.
Ask him or her to review the content and to verify spelling of
proper names and places. Get oral final approval from interviewee.
j) Post it on the internet.
Add a short description to the Table of Contents page with a link
to the oral history. DonÍt forget metatags (especially title and
keywords) in the HTML document.
k) Audio. Select
three or four segments from the audio three to six minutes each.
Selections donÍt have to parallel the text, but should relate to
it. Choose selections that 1) have excellent audio quality, 2) convey
emotion, humor or some quality that canÍt be captured by the text,
3) have interesting content. Audio is a place where a longer story
or anecdote could be presented if alluded to in the summary.
a) Mark the audio clips as tracks on the minidisc
b) Audio engineer to convert minidisc tracks to Real Audio files.
c) Load audio files to host and convert to .rm files, with .ram file as
technology is a major consideration in this project, in particular,
recording quality and Internet technologies. Unlike other oral history
projects, we must meet standards for music as well as voice recording.
a) Website. The
website resides on a commercial server and is maintained by John
Daley and Nancy MacKay. The oral history site is maintained by Nancy
MacKay. So far, this has been a volunteer and amateur effort. As
the website grows, the existing file structure and templates are
becoming cumbersome and confusing.
The Project receives audio materials in two ways: Interviews which
we record, and prerecorded segments, usually music, provided by the
interviewees We currently record interviews on a Sony MZ-R50 minidisc
recorder and a single standup microphone. This system records in
digital and outputs in analog. We are very pleased with the quality
of sound and the ability to mark tracks, though it raises problems
for transcribing and archiving. Currently, we transfer the interviews
to audiotape, making either one or two copies. The (analog) audiotape
is currently considered the archival copy and the copy used for transcription.
We select sections of each interview to post on the website in audio
form. Selections are based on content, audio quality, and particular
anecdotes or speaking patterns that are not easily conveyed as text.
Our goal is to post three to four audio clips, each three to five
minutes (400 to 600 KB) for each interview. Selections are marked
as tracks on the minidisc and converted to RealAudio files by a paid
sound engineer. Then they are set up as .rm and .ram files and linked
to the interview to more orless parallel the text.
Recorded music from another source.
We also receive prerecorded sound (generally music) offered to the
Project by interviewees. For example, we were offered a taped radio
segment from the 1940s. We welcome all musical contributions which
contribute to and enhance any oral history. These segments are also
converted to RealAudio and posted according to the procedure mentioned
above. These tapes arrive in different stages of quality.
c) Visual. It is
our hope to supplement oral histories with visual materials, such
as photographs current or old photographs.
I would like to consider the possibilities of interactive technologies.
In particular I would like to develop an interactive map, mainly
of Croatia, where people can click on the home village of various
people to get more information about it. Other interactive possibilities
are feedback to the site, online discussion forums and chat groups.
Guidelines for Researchers
We have developed a close and trusting
relationship with all the men and women who have agreed to share
their stories, their photographs and their music. We ask that researchers
approach this material with the same respect and sensitivity. This
project follows the Oral
History Evaluation Guidelines published by the Oral History Association.
Each participant has signed a permission
form giving the Project permission to post audio and text excerpts
from the recorded interview on this web site. Some informants have
expressed a willingness to be contacted directly by researchers.
For more specific information, please contact Project Director, Nancy
Audio or text excerpts may be used
for scholarly purposes within appropriate context and with proper
Please cite interview material
[name of interviewee]. Interview. [date of interview, interviewer]. SlavonicWeb
Oral History Project. [date of citation]. < http://www.slavonicweb.org/history/OralHistories.htm>
Adam Eterovich. Interview. April 1999, by Nancy MacKay. SlavonicWeb Oral
History Project. 22 February 2000. < http://www.slavonicweb.org/history/OralHistories.htm>
For more information on web citations,
University's Guide to Online Style.