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Hi Nancy,

Speaking from experience, it isn't recommended to use a mobile phone for oral history interviews. Your phone could heat up and shut down, run out of memory space, the file could become corrupted, or you could experience some sort of other interruptions, like phone calls or texts.

The next best thing is to use an inexpensive handheld recorder like the Zoom H1N. It runs about $100 and is totally worth the investment.

Hope this helps,

Mo Gurrola

Kia ora koutou. It hasn't been recommended to use mobile phones in the past, and it isn't best practice, but there may be times when it's necessary. And microphone technology on phones has come a long way -- it's better than some recording devices from past decades.

During our first New Zealand lockdown, we did remote recording, and one entire episode of our podcast was recorded on a phone. It's called "Jack's Story" and is available here https://mch.govt.nz/kei-roto-i-te-miru-inside-bubble. In this case there was no budget to buy recording equipment, and a wonderful story needed to be recorded. There is guidance available now for doing OH on mobile phones, including turning off all notifications and incoming calls so you don't get interrupted. If it's the choice between capturing the OH and not capturing it, I say go for it, but be aware of the challenges of using a phone. UK guidance can be found here: https://www.ohs.org.uk/covid-19-remote-recording/

I'm always happy to chat about this as it's a bit of a passion for me.

Dr. Emma-Jean Kelly
Senior Audio-Visual Historian
Ministry for Culture and Heritage
Aotearoa New Zealand

Hi Nancy,

I recently spent some time recording oral histories with an iPad backed up by a new iPod Touch. While it worked out pretty well, If I had to do it over again, I would probably use a digital voice recorder instead. I had issues with running out of memory (fortunately I was using a backup device), and it's important to remember to put your device on airplane mode. Mostly, your phone/iPad will sooner or later run out of space, and then you have to decide to delete the original files. (This is particularly true since another best practice is to record to a .WAV file, which takes up much more space.) Even if you have backed them up multiple times, it still feels very uncomfortable. The advantage of some voice recorders is that you can record onto microSD cards. You can read more about best practices and technology here: https://www.baylor.edu/toha/index.php?id=29281

Isabelle Headrick

We're a transcription company, and there are just so many things that can go wrong with mobile phone recordings. I just tried to solve some inaudibles where the interviewer and interviewee accidentally spoke over each other, and the volume seems to have escalated wildly.

Phone mics have come a long way, but if you can use a recorder, that's the best recording you're going to get. I even recommend a mic. I talked to a longtime audio expert for PBS at the OHA conference in Montreal, I think. He said just establish good eye contact at the beginning and maintain it. The interviewee will completely forget they are mic'ed.

Good luck!
Beth McLauglin