For everyday portable recording: Tascam and Roland (and many other viable brands) offer all-in-one microphone, digital recording, and sound card compatibility.  As long as we have memory storage, and access to a reliable PC or laptop device, recording cost starts at about $350-$500 dollars.

I cannot recommend iPhone recordings, antiquated digital storage devices nor unreliable recording & editing born-digital file formats.  To make new sound recordings, and to capture conversations between a few people, can be fun.  My hesitance begins with how difficult it will be to preserve theses first precious recordings for the long-term.

Keep in mind that starting small, getting reliable advice from sound professionals, and increasing technical engagement with chosen tools, will help to facilitate archival-quality content.

It is especially important to focus on realistic project management, technical need, and suitable best practices of recording equipment use.  Computer hardware knowledge, and its companion softwares, require diligence and practical application by the interviewer, sound editor, and digital citizen archivist.

A well-organized oral history project recognizes equipment and production needs with keen guidance measures, properly timed and dispersed funding, and accompanied with the help of cross-disciplinary support liaisons, of whom all work to create beneficial, long lasting community reports.  These professionals may include journalists, librarians, archivists, and practically anyone who shows an interest in project production.

For a rough estimate of your projects’ technical needs, check out Doug Boyd’s Digital Recorder Cost & Quality Questionnaire.

In my view, truly successful projects provide adequate digital recording equipment, and paid interviewers, sound recordists, metadata and transcription managers, and especially knowledgeable sound editors for post-production.

This potential group works closely, and with creative attention toward digital and analog labors.  Together, they create team, task built, workflows.  They create information, and thereby generate open access content.

Volunteer labor in post-production results in poor sound quality.

Archival KXZW standard says otherwise, old guard hierarchy bones!  

RE: Consider the high cost of volunteer or temporary labor practices, and pay for good work$

In fact (Your Name Here Executive Director Hot-Shot), jump straight into the 22nd century and over-pay for digital projects.  That’s right, hot off the press, you’ve read it here, (Your Name Here Consummate Professional), Over-Pay, and Educate yourself about the digitally laborious real-world of audio production. 

For an example of production and post production reality —in this case a project at The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History— read Jenifer Cramer and Erin Hess’s OHDA paper What Endures: Producing and Publishing and Oral History Podcast.


A short list of potential gear used for digital sound recordings

  • Rode Microphones

NT1-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone

  • Shure Microphones

SM58 Vocal Microphone

  • Blue Microphones 

Spark SL Large-Diaphragm Studio Condensor Microphone

  • TASCAM DR-100MKIII Linear PCM Recorder


Owner’s Manual (PDF)

  • Digital Camera –– useful for narrator photos should the project call for it; however, my own work no longer seeks to document via image or photograph.  That said, a good digital camera remains indispensable for documenting the archive trails we make.
  • Accessory cords, USB drives, and portable sound card storage
  • Equipment storage bag to include safe, dry, and temperature controlled storage for recording equipment.


Practice your technique by recording regularly with variable settings and sound environments, and, above all, for your enjoyment of the craft of storytelling via sound, voice, and memory.  

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