Research Center for Arts & Culture
The Actors Fund

Performing Arts Legacy Project

An online platform to document and represent the careers of older performing arts professionals

How To: Oral History

Planning & Preparation

To conduct your own oral history, please begin by consulting the questions we developed for this project, and consider other topics you might like to explore.

Here are some notes to keep in mind as you prepare to interview a performer that we have prepared for your reference.

Place and Time

Budget plenty of time to conduct an oral history. We recommend 2 – 3 recording sessions, so you can touch on different topics, avoid fatigue, and capture different moods and outlooks on the material you cover.

Finding a space to record that is quiet and free of interruptions may be your biggest challenge. To capture high quality audio that is free of echoes, buzzing, and other issues, we recommend recording in a room that has carpeted floors, low ceilings, and sturdy, fixed furniture that will not move or creak if you shift in your seat while recording.


You don’t need sophisticated equipment to record great audio. There are several free recording apps for smartphones and tablets, such as Voice Record Pro for iPhone/iPad  and Voice Recorder for Android devices.

To get even better quality recordings than the built-in microphone on your device allows, use an external condenser or lavalier microphone that plugs into your phone or tablet. With the speaker’s mouth roughly 6″ – 12″ from the microphone, it will capture crisp, clear audio and eliminate background noise.


Be sure to do a sound check when you begin, and always include the following information at the beginning of each recording:

  • Name of Actor
  • Name of Interviewer
  • Date and place of interview

Once you have completed a recording session, be sure to back up your audio files to a cloud storage service or other device for safekeeping.


Depending on the degree to which you’d like to edit your audio recordings, you may need outside help. But there are several free, easy-to-learn software applications that can be used to reduce distortion in recordings and to do some straightforward cut/copy/trim actions to edit out mistakes or redundancies, for example.

  • Audacity is free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing on a Mac or PC
  • Hokusai is an app that allows you to edit audio recordings on your iPhone or iPad.

Publishing Audio to Your Site

When editing a post or page on your site, click the “+” icon to “Add Component” and select Audio. Follow the prompts to add a title, upload your audio file (100MB max), disable looping and auto-play, and display the audio player. If you encounter technical difficulties, please submit a support request.