Voices of Princeton is a collaborative oral history initiative created by the Princeton Public Library, the Historical Society of Princeton, the Arts Council of Princeton, and the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. The goal of the project is to collect, share, and archive stories and memories of Princetonians.
The recorded interviews will be archived in full at the Historical Society of Princeton, alongside 500 existing oral histories, and will be publicly accessible on this website.
What is oral history?
Oral history is a method for studying the past by interviewing people who lived through it. Anyone and any topic can be the focus of an oral history interview. However, oral history is especially useful for capturing the voices, stories, and memories of individuals and communities who might not otherwise be represented in history books. It can provide rich detail about the daily lives and experiences of people who are not famous or powerful. In order to preserve the interviews for future generations, oral histories are usually recorded, transcribed, and placed in a library or archive.
How are Voices of Princeton oral histories structured?
Each interview has three main participants:
- The Voices of Princeton facilitator
- The interviewer
- The interviewee
The facilitator is a Voices of Princeton project representative. In the interview, the facilitator will:
- Welcome the two interview participants
- Explain the interview process overall
- Walk through the consent paperwork
- Operate and monitor the recording equipment
- Prompt the interviewer, if needed, to keep the conversation flowing
The interviewer and interviewee are people who know one another—friends, siblings, co-workers, family members, neighbors—any two people who would like to participate in an interview together. No experience with oral history is necessary.
When you sign up for an interview, Voices of Princeton organizers will provide you with guidelines on how to get a conversation started and how to keep it moving along. The main goal is to have the conversation flow from topic to topic through open-ended questions.
The audio files will be archived at the Historical Society of Princeton and will be made available to the public on the Voices of Princeton website.
The Voices of Princeton project welcomes oral history efforts related to Princeton’s people, institutions, and history to become Voices of Princeton Partner Projects. The Voices of Princeton project can help provide resources, consultation, access, and archiving for your oral history project.