What Equipment Will You Use and How Does It Work?


  • Use an external microphone not a built in, the sound quality will be much better.
  • Unless you are recording music, a mono microphone should suffice
  • Check your recording device to be sure your microphone will fit with it.
  • A dynamic microphone (as opposed to a condenser microphone) is considered best.
  • Go the extra mile and buy a stand for the microphone.

Recording Devices:

Analog Cassette Recorder
The standard for nearly 30 years was the analog cassette recorder. Cassettes have a shelf life of around 15 years, but the user interface for the cassette recorder is very simple. Recorders and playback devices are becoming increasingly rare.

Digital Audio Recorder
Digital Audio Recorders can range wildly in quality. It is best to choose the highest quality type you can afford as you want the sound quality to go on forever. These can be USB devices, or use flash cards in much the same manner as digital cameras.

Recording directly to Computer or Ipod
Your computer or laptop can be configured with a USB/Firewire Audio interface. You will not have to transfer your files to the computer to copy it to another format. The downsides of the computer recording are that computers tend to make a lot of stray noises (beeps and dings) which may interrupt your recording and uncompressed audiofiles can be very large. Ipods have the same problems as computers, but can be very useful if you find yourself without any recording device at all!

Video Recorders
Digital Video Recorders can be very useful if you would like to catch your subject on camera.It is essential to use a tripod and to ask that your subject sit. Use good microphones with your video equipment and check your audio levels. Test your lighting ahead of time. Make your subject 1/3 to 1/2 of the screen (don't get too close). Make pan/tilt movements slowly and deliberately. Don’t shoot directly against a wall.

Storage Media

Recordable compact discs are commonly used over magnetic tape for the preservation of oral histories over a long period of time. However CDs may have a limited life as well. It is best to continue to be aware of the changes in digital media and store your files on CDs and a hard drive.

Flash Drive and other digital portable media
Don't let the flash drive, or media card that your device uses be the place you store your data. Transfer it to a CD and/or hard drive.

Hard Drive
By far the most stable storage medium, but it would be best to acquire a hard drive that could be devoted to your oral histories and stored away from the computer, for the stability of the data on the drive.

Keep in mind that new media for storage are available each year and that your data needs to be on a schedule for migration to the next stable medium.


Preparation Recording Equipment Interviewing techniques After the Interview