Volunteering

Image of a volunteer at computer

The Museum's Oral History Program would not be a success without the dedication of a small group of wonderful volunteers who help us. Behind the scenes is an involved process to gather and process interviews, starting before the interview itself with background research and developing questions. Afterwards, someone goes through the tape and makes a word-by-word transcript—a long but critical step.

Volunteering in the Oral History Program is a great opportunity for individuals with prior office experience and/or those who are uncomfortable leading tours or working in the galleries as a docent. It is also very rewarding knowing that you are helping preserve history and heritage that would otherwise be lost.

We train volunteers in the following positions:

Interviewers
The actual time involved in preparing for and conducting an interview is relatively small as compared to the overall process. Thus, we keep a very small core of volunteers to supplement the staff and contractors who conduct interviews and only infrequently recruit volunteers as interviewers.
Transcriptionists
These volunteers listen to interviews and create an "every word and noise" transcript of what is said and happens. This is the most detailed information about an interview and is often the primary material referred to by staff and researchers in their projects. Thus accuracy and completeness are important.
Reviewers and Abstractors
We have need for volunteers who are willing to make abstract outlines of interviews or to check (and possibly edit) completed transcripts against the tapes. They also help create abstract outlines of other Museum lectures, programs, and non-Museum-owned interviews. Some abstractors also do transcriptions if they are willing.

The Oral History Program provides all equipment needed for any of these jobs, including a separate computer workstation for OHP volunteers working on abstracts or transcripts. If you are interested in learning more about becoming an oral history volunteer, please contact the Museum's Volunteer Coordinator.