Reciprocity: CDs, flash drives, email

Suzanne Snider's picture


Over the last couple of years, I have grown disatisfied with CDs as a way to return audio interviews to narrators. In terms of reciprocity, I want to use whatever medium is most convenient for narrators.

Younger narrators have preferred email and older narrators have preferred CDs. Interviews that run longer than 80 minutes, however, must be burned as data CDs, which makes them playable only with a computer. Newer computers don't have CD drives and many of my older narrators don't use computers. Likewise, flash drives/email won't be useful to those without computers. The benefit of the CD is that it's a labeled object that will be encountered in the future by the narrator or the narrator's friends/family.

I'd love to hear what individual oral historians and various archives are settling upon as the preferred medium.

I run several workshops over the summer. While I will advise students to use the medium most meaningful for their particular narrator, I need to settle upon one method for the workshop interviews.

Many thanks for your thoughts,

Suzanne Snider

During my oral history interviews, I use a separate small DVD recorder/burner that is linked to my video camera. With this system, I am simultaneously recording digitally on the video camera while burning a hard copy DVD. The DVD is then presented to the narrator at the end of the interview as an unedited copy of the interview.

With my system, narrators and their family are extremely grateful for having an interview copy right away and not having to wait until the entire video and sound is edited. Best of all, the DVD can not only be played on a computer but on any DVD or Blueray player at home. I find the DVD format to be the best of both worlds as it provides an immediate keepsake in a format that most people will have an ability to play. When complete, I follow-up by sending the narrator a copy of the final edited DVD.

Patrick Russell
Making History Project

This is a difficult one now. 10 years ago we used Gold CDs. I still do. Now I do one if I can fit it, but sometimes need to do a double disc set to give to the interviewee and a copy for my file. So far I haven't needed to use more than two. If they have a computer, you can give them a USB drive, or put it in your Dropbox and provide the link. But not all interviewees will cope with that. I will be interested to hear what others are doing.

Suzanne Mulligan
Oral Historian
Brisbane, Australia

Similarly to Suzanne Mulligan we have multiple options that we offer to interviewees in terms of the medium they prefer for their copy of an interview. The default is to send them a CD copy, and often that is split over two CD's since one will only hold about an hour of recording. As has been noted, older interviewees usually prefer a CD that has been burned as a CD file so that they can play it on their CD player--and of course we are aware that this medium will eventually be obsolete. In addition to the CD we always offer for interviewees (or their family members) to download the audio file (.wav or mp3 as they prefer) via a drive sharing application like DropBox or Google Drive. I also make it clear that since we will be preserving their interview into the future that they can always request a copy if they were to lose theirs. I have not offered a flash drive due to the cost.

We only use audio recordings at present and have not had to share video.

Tina Wright
Christina A Wright | Oral History Interviewer
UNC Charlotte | J. Murrey Atkins Library
9201 University City Blvd. | Charlotte, NC 28223
Phone: 704-687-1171 |

I transfer a copy onto a flash drive right after the interview and give it to the interviewee before they leave. You can get flash drives relatively cheaply these days and I have found more people have computers with USB ports than have CD drives. CD drives are pretty obsolete at this point. If you are ordering in bulk, you can even have a logo put on the drive. If an interviewee is stumped by the technology, they usually just say they will ask a family member to help. I advise that they transfer the interview to a hard drive where they keep other important documents. It has really made the whole process of getting a copy of the interview to the participant much simpler.

Eileen McAdam