Thomaston Students planning oral history interviews on the Great Depression

MPBN's Keith Shortall demonstrates interveiw techniques for tenth graders in Thomaston

MPBN's Keith Shortall demonstrates interview techniques for tenth graders in Thomaston

Maine Public Radio Producer, Keith Shortall, visited Thomaston High School on November 18 to talk to students about interviewing for oral history.  Students there will be conducting oral histories with local residents on their memories of the Great Depression in Thomaston and Shortall spent some time with the students talking about interviewing skills.  He also did a live interview with his aunt, Signe Gardner of Thomaston, so the kids could see how to conduct an interview and ask questions.

Kristie and I had visited the previous week to talk with students about how to prepare for an oral history project.  Two sections of teacher Krystal Gamage’s Economics classes are gearing up to do oral history interviews with local people who remember the Great Depression.  While we explained the basics of oral history – what it is, why we do it and how to run the recording equipment, we also had some lively discussions about what the questions might be.  Each student came armed with 10 questions they might like to ask and we talked about them and added more to their list.  There were some really great questions and showed a real understanding of how to relate the history to the current state of our economy.  Even more surprising to us was how knowledgeable about how to ask a question so that you don’t end up with just yes and no answers.  We also discussed how you might gear questions to particular people – women, men, or those who were children at the time.  It became clear to all of us that many of these people were likely to have been kids during the Depression just because so much time has passed.  It was a very interesting day & the students were great at putting their ideas up for discussion.

Over Thanksgiving break students will contact their interviews and ask preliminary questions over the phone.  They’ll arrange a meeting date and conduct their interviews in December.  Once the interviews are complete, students will transcribe their interviews and pick 2 or 3 interesting clips to post on the Maine Memory Network and the Thomaston MCHP site.  The original recordings and transcripts will go to the Thomaston Historical Society and Thomaston Public Library.

More to come on this exciting project.  Stay tuned….



About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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2 Responses to Thomaston Students planning oral history interviews on the Great Depression

  1. Dean says:

    That is super cool. I wish my school would have been more inclined to interest students in more technology than it was. If this is an area that interests you, check out this Handheld Recorders Buyers Guide for more information on these cool little gizmos. I came across this page while I was shopping for gifts. Pretty cool and informative.


    • mainechp says:

      Thanks a lot! I’m always looking good info on recorders — especially ones that would be useful for schools or first time users. I’m glad you checked our site. Best,

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