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Oral History FAQs
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Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Meetings with the Director or the Coordinator are by appointment only, unless you are in a working partnership with the center and are dropping off/picking up materials on a pre-arranged schedule. Coming soon: there is no appointment necessary to view the self-guided listening stations during office hours.

The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History is in room 5 of the basement of LSU’s main library.

From the stairs: Go down the stairwell and take a left down a small hallway. The Williams Center is on your first right, through the glass doors.

From the elevators: take the elevator down to “B,” take a left, then another left, and go down the hallway and past the stairs. The center is to your right through glass doors.

The Williams Center chooses interviewees whose recollections best fit within one of our projects. If you know someone whose life experience fits within within one of our projects, let us know about that person and why you think their stories would contribute to our oral history collection. To nominate someone for an interview, complete and return our bio data form. However, due to limited resources, a better alternative may be to interview the person yourself. We can provide guidance and training in oral history techniques so that you can interview people whose stories and memories deserve preservation. To learn more about our trainings, please visit “Create an Oral History”

The Williams Center accepts audio and video recordings into our collection if they meet the following criteria: Each sound record must be 1) a recording of an oral history interview, preferably between two people; 2) in playable condition and of a recording quality sufficiently clear for transcription; 3) in a media format compatible with current center practice, which is in digital .wav format for audio (see *below regarding video); 4) on a topic that contributes to the existing collection of the center 5) accompanied by a legal release signed by the interviewee 6) accompanied by a legal release signed by the interviewer, signing over all rights, title, and interest to Louisiana State University; 7) begun with a recorded introduction including name of interviewee, name of interviewer, date and location of interview; and 8) conducted in accordance with the Oral History Association's "Principles and Best Practices for Oral History." We also take into consideration 9) how well the interviews are documented and the level and quality of their accompanying descriptions and 10) the inclusion of a transcription or thorough index, or funds dedicated to a transcription or thorough indexing. For more information on submitting projects for evaluation and to get the conversation started, please contact us at

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Searching and Accessing Existing Collections
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A collection is an interview, and as such, it is assigned a specific collection number, such as 4700.1234. There can be several recordings (indicated by Tape #) within one collection if the person was interviewed on more than one occasion by the same interviewer.

You can search the catalog record for all collections that have been fully processed. Hint: type key word plus “oral history” into the search box.

Additionally, many interviews are available online through the Louisiana Digital Library.

You can also search the series finding aids (also called abstracts), which are detailed descriptions of interviews at both the item level (interview) and the collection level (project or series). Unprocessed collections might not yet be listed online.

A processed collection has gone through several steps to become a cataloged record, and thus available to the researching public. Those steps include a thorough vetting of copyright and restrictions, a verbatim transcription or thorough indexing of the interview including time-stamped calibration, the opportunity for the interviewee to review the transcription, the creation of a finding aid that includes important metadata about the collection, the preservation and optimization of audio files, the creation of user-copies, and cataloging. This process requires the efforts of several LSU Libraries staff members and it has been calculated that for every hour of recording, it takes 35-50 hours to fully process. For a detailed breakdown of the stages and fees associated with archiving oral histories, please see The Oral History Budget. All processed collections are found in the catalog record and many are available on the Louisiana Digital Library.

An unprocessed collection is one that has not reached the final stage of completion and is not yet ready to be cataloged. Depending on the stage of processing, more or less of the interview will be available to patrons. See below for availability of unprocessed collections. An unprocessed collection is not in the catalog record or on the Louisiana Digital Library.

All unrestricted, fully-processed, cataloged collections are available to patrons. Audio and/or transcriptions and indexes can also be duplicated. However, restricted collections may be unavailable or have limited availability depending on the restrictions.

All requests for access to unprocessed collections require the Williams Center director's authorization. Any duplications of unprocessed interviews are not allowed beyond "Fair Use" unless this restriction is cleared by the director upon staff review of the item. Please note that the review process may take at least 1-2 business days, depending on the size of the collection.

There are various types of restrictions to collections that will be listed in the catalog record. The most common restriction is the one triggered by incomplete paperwork and this restriction often limits the interview to on-site access-only and limited duplication.

Other restrictions are set forth by the interviewer or the interviewee and are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Follow the procedures outlined via LSU Libraries Special Collections Public Services. Be sure to have the collection number, tape number, and the name of the interviewee handy to fill out the form. Please note-these copy requests are not processed by Williams Center personnel but through Public Services, as indicated in the above procedures.

The interview will be sent to you as PDF or a MP3.

Visit LSU Libraries: since all cataloged interviews are housed in Special Collections at Hill Memorial Library, you may visit the Reading Room where staff will assist you by pulling transcriptions from the stacks or by providing you access to digital audio files via the stand-alone computer, which is outfitted with headphones. Coming soon: The Williams Center will have a dedicated, self-guided public computer where you can access cataloged digital files during office hours.

The Louisiana Digital Library has selected interviews available By December 2023, all cataloged interviews will be online.

You may request a copy of the interview. See above for instructions.

A copy of the interview may be jointly housed in another repository, so be sure to double check that information in the catalog record.

There are several options depending on various style guides.

[Last Name, First Name], interview by [interviewer first name and last name], audio recording, [date], [4700.####]. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

[First name last name] Oral History Interview, MSS 4700.####, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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