Oral history remains one of the most important methods of doing African history. A substantial number of societies in Africa have no written history. Their history is communicated orally from generation to generation. Despite the growing literacy rates in Africa today, it is still difficult to find local historical societies that attempt to collect and preserve the history of the people. History is still generally held by the community and transmitted orally through stories, songs, etc.
I have done a fair share of oral interviews. The actual interviewing process is fairly easy but the challenge often is in the transcription and use of those interviews. It is worth noting that, the interviewing process may have its pitfalls where the interviewee may embellish stories or the conversations may veer off from topics the interviewer wants to focus on, most especially if those topics make the interviewees a bit uncomfortable. I have often done group oral interviews and repeat the same set of questions in different settings. The subjects often self-correct each other when someone tries to do some embellishment or misremember facts incorrectly. I find it useful having a core set of questions as the Occupational Folkore Project does. This will help to keep the interviews focused and also make the creation of metadata for the project easier.
Transcriptions is one of the difficult challenges when oral history is done. I have several hours of interviews that I have recorded that I have still not found the time to transcribe them. Transcription takes a significant amount of time and it is costly. This is where the OHMS project seems very promising, most especially with the plugins for Omeka and other content management systems. For my project, I am asking people to record audio of their experiences of development projects. These stories are a form of oral history. What I am trying to do is to steer them toward certain topics or a set of core questions. Unlike physical group interviews where the factual record can be self-corrected by other members in the group, these interviews conducted in the digital space pose a challenge. One has to sit down and listen to several hours of audio, and perhaps some of it not useful to a particular topic a person is researching. Indexing these digital files using OHMS seems to be a more efficient and simple way of using the recordings.
As I continue to develop my project, I am rethinking how I collect audio data from the public. Finding a way to integrate the OHMS indexing system may make the data I collect more useful.